Symantec launches EarthLink security subscriptions

Security giant Symantec hopes to continue its rapid growth in the consumer security market by offering EarthLink subscribers a bundled firewall and antivirus package.

Dawn Kawamoto
Dawn Kawamoto Former Staff writer, CNET News
Dawn Kawamoto covered enterprise security and financial news relating to technology for CNET News.
3 min read
Security giant Symantec and Internet service provider EarthLink announced on Tuesday that they are offering an antivirus and firewall subscription bundled with the ISP's service.

The move comes on the tail of heightened consumer awareness after half a year of high-profile virus attacks.

The deal introduces a new model for consumer-level security services. Rather than having to pay $49 up-front for a security software package and a year of updates--which must then be renewed a year at a time--this offering lets consumers pay about $4 to $6 per month for as long as they choose and receive the bill on their EarthLink statement.

The partnership not only enhances EarthLink's security offerings to its users but also addresses a way for Symantec to hold on to the phenomenal growth it has seen with its consumer products.

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Security companies, which are experiencing strong sales of their antivirus software, want to keep customers, once their first-year subscriptions expire. Customers sometimes neither upgrade the software nor renew the current subscription, leaving their computers vulnerable to viruses created after their last security update.

Sales of Symantec's consumer security products--including Norton Antivirus and Norton Personal Firewall packages--grew 55 percent in the last quarter of 2003, accounting for 49 percent of the company's overall revenue. Symantec's consumer sales escalated dramatically in the second half of last year, following the havoc the MSBlast worm wreaked last summer. That worm was followed by others--Bagle, MyDoom and Netsky.

What's in it for Symantec
"With EarthLink, we have a new channel to reach new customers who we haven't been able to reach through our traditional channels," said Leticia Oseguera, Symantec senior product manager. "This is an exciting new channel for us, and it gives customers the flexibility to get their security in the way they want to buy it."

Under the deal, consumers subscribing to Symantec's Norton AntiVirus and Norton Personal Firewall software will have it billed on their EarthLink invoice. The two security products cost $3.95 each per month, or $5.95 for both. Small business can also receive the EarthLink-Symantec service for five users at $14.95 per month, and $24.95 monthly for 10 users.

EarthLink users will only continue to receive the updates as long as they remain customers of the ISP.

This model is more expensive than a standard subscription to Symantec's products. A Symantec subscription via EarthLink costs roughly $48 over a 12-month period, verses $49 to buy the initial package, $30 to buy an upgrade and about $20 to renew the update subscription for a year.

Symantec, which has similar ISP agreements in Europe and Japan, is also looking to expand its bundled offering beyond EarthLink in the United States, Oseguera said. EarthLink, however, does not plan to add more security vendors to its bundled service.

What's in it for EarthLink
EarthLink is bolstering its security offerings with the Symantec deal. It also gets a portion of every subscription, said Mark Griffith, EarthLink's product marketing director.

The ISP's TotalAccess 2004 software features its Spyware Blocker, spamBlocker and Pop-Up Blocker tools. And for servers, EarthLink in 2003 added Virus Blocker--a free tool users can access that is powered by Symantec's antivirus scan technology.

"The more we can keep our customers engaged with the EarthLink experience, the more likely they will stay," Griffith said.

EarthLink's security services are expected to be the most popular item among its add-on features, he added.

"We have some value-added services that serve a particular niche like digital music, whereas this has mass market appeal," Griffith said.