NAI Chief Running a Clean Ship

Interview: Despite company's recent travails, Network Associates Inc. CEO George Samenuk says he's running a clean ship.

Its been an interesting year so far for Network Associates Inc. The Santa Clara, Calif., security giant has been involved in an on-again, off-again courtship with Corp., which finally agreed to be acquired earlier this month; in an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission that resulted in a restatement of earnings reports from 1998, 1999 and 2000; and in a sweeping reorganization that has led to the sale or discontinuation of several product lines.

Senior Writer Dennis Fisher spoke recently with CEO George Samenuk about NAIs recent travails, the governments plans to secure the nations infrastructure and what the future holds for a leaner, refocused Network Associates.

eWeek: Whats the level of security awareness like out there as compared to a year ago?

Samenuk: Its almost two or three times the awareness and two or three times the number of attacks as last year. People are trying to keep their networks secure, but its not easy.

eWeek: I know youve had a chance to talk with Richard Clarke about the national plan. What are your thoughts on some of the recommendations in there?

Samenuk: The government is going to get very firm on auditing and ensuring that all 28 government agencies are secure. Theyre going to do audits like they did for Y2K. And theres a lot of talk in there about wireless, especially wireless LANs. I find that CIOs and CSOs are frustrated because they know what they need to do but they have no time to do it.

eWeek: Do you think that the provisions in the plan will make a difference in terms of the overall security of the countrys networks?

Samenuk: Theres no doubt in my mind. The fact is that the entire cabinet is behind this. This goes beyond just the corporate world.

eWeek: Will the governments effort to collect more information help?

Samenuk: No doubt. Weve accelerated our efforts in providing information to the government and giving them early notification of problems. The lines of communication have never been better. I see all of the barriers being broken down.

eWeek: With all of the accounting scandals happening these days, do you feel like Network Associates got lumped in with the Enrons and WorldComs of the world because of the SECs investigation?

Samenuk: Yes, I do. This is a very healthy company. Were sitting at $1.1 billion in cash and were serving the worlds largest companies and governments today. To think that were going out of business is a misnomer. Heres the thing: This management team has been in here for almost two years making progress and doing things right. I can look people in the eye and say were running a clean ship.

eWeek: Were you surprised at the acquisitions [of SecurityFocus, Riptech Inc. and Recourse Technologies Inc.] that Symantec made? That was a big move.

Samenuk: No, I wasnt surprised. They raised some additional cash for the acquisitions. If you look at the companies they bought, we already have a managed service, we already have a console. A lot of the things they bought, we already have.

eWeek: What can we expect in the way of new products in the near future?

Samenuk: Next year youll see products that will look for network service problems and network security problems in the same product. We came up with the idea after one of our customers wrote a filter for a Sniffer during the Nimda outbreak and was able to stop the worm before it hit. So we thought that if we can put something on the front end of Sniffer, the customer can act before the threat hits their server or desktop. I personally went to customers and talked about this. There will be some coming out in the first quarter and throughout 2003.

eWeek: How has the Sniffer Mobile line been doing?

Samenuk: Sniffer Mobile appears to be a blockbuster for us. By blockbuster, I mean a product that can do $50 million in revenue in the next twelve months.

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