OK, Symantec Corp. did suffer a hack. But the security software company said the hack occurred back in 2006 and they lost the source code to its flagship Norton security software.
The world’s biggest maker of security software had previously said hackers stole the code from a third party, but corrected that statement Tuesday after an investigation found a breach in Symantec’s own networks.
The hackers obtained the source code, or blueprint for its software, to Norton Antivirus Corporate Edition, Norton Internet Security, Norton Utilities, Norton GoBack and pcAnywhere, Symantec spokesman Cris Paden said.
Last week, the hackers released the code to a 2006 version of Norton Utilities and have said they planned to release code to its antivirus software on Tuesday. It was not clear why they were releasing source code six years after the theft.
Source code includes instructions written in computer programming languages as well as comments that engineers share to explain the design of their software. For example, a file released last week from the source code of a 2006 version of Norton Utilities included a comment that said “Make all changes in local entry, so we don’t screw up the real entry if we back up early.”
Companies typically heavily guard their source code, which is the crown jewel of most software makers. At some companies access is only on an as-needed basis, with programmers allowed to view code only if it relates to assigned tasks.
The reason for all the secrecy is companies fear rivals could use the code to figure out the “secret sauce” behind their technology and hackers could use it to plan attacks.
Paden said the 2006 attack presented no threat to customers using the most recent versions of Symantec’s software.
“They are protected against any type of cyber attack that might materialize as a result of this code,” he said.
Symantec said earlier this month its own network did not suffer a breach when the hacker stole the source code. Paden said this week an investigation into the matter showed the company’s networks had suffered compromise.
“We really had to dig way back to find out that this was actually part of a source code theft,” he said. “We are still investigating exactly how it was stolen.”
Paden also said customers of pcAnywhere, a program that facilitates remote access of PCs, may face “a slightly increased security risk” as a result of the exposure.
“Symantec is currently in the process of reaching out to our pcAnywhere customers to make them aware of the situation and to provide remediation steps to maintain the protection of their devices and information.”