LAS VEGAS -- Control was the central theme of the opening keynote at Symantec's Vision 2010 security software conference as top executives here hammered home the importance of proactive vigilance to fend off malware attacks from cyber crooks targeting companies' most sensitive data.

Unlike most vendor conference keynotes, Symantec (NASDAQ: SYMC) opted for a more informal address complete with showgirls, a live house band and a late-night talk show format featuring Steve Morton, the company's vice president of product management and strategy, playing the role of David Letterman as he interviewed prominent executive "guests" about the past, present and uncertain future of network security.

The theatrics served as fairly humorous contrast to the serious business of protecting corporate and consumer data from sophisticated malware attacks that cost companies millions of dollars and, potentially, could compromise U.S.-based companies' ability to remain competitive in the global economy.

To that end, Symantec unveiled a quartet of new enterprise security application suites designed to address the most serious internal and external threats to critical data.

"We've been talking about how threats have become much more targeted," CEO Enrique Salem said during his turn on the dais. "And that trend has absolutely increased. In 2009, we wrote more than three million [security] signatures, so it wasn't just us saying that it was real. It's a serious challenge to the way we protect our infrastructure."

Symantec's latest Internet Security Threat Report, which will be released later this month, found that 60 percent of identities exposed last year were the direct result of concerted hacking attacks. Moreover, the company said, a full 100 percent of survey respondents said they experienced some sort of loss to cybercrime in 2009.

"Every time we think we understand why these attacks are happening, the motive changes," Salem said.

Symantec's new releases include Control Compliance Suite 10.0, an offering that promises to provide greater visibility into corporate IT and compliance risks and Data Loss Prevention Suite 10.5, an application designed to safeguard data shared through social networking sites or residing in private and public clouds.

"We're really starting to see the proliferation of devices," Salem said. "There were more than one billion PCs connected to networks this year and 1.3 billion smartphones. That's why we've always pushed for standardization."

The company's new Altiris IT Management Suite 7.0 release offers IT management functionality for improving security, reducing costs and improving the overall manageability of data in enterprise IT systems.

Finally, Symantec Protection Suites will provide enterprises with in-depth data security tailored to specific areas of the IT infrastructure, as well as unified security management tools across multiple endpoints, servers and gateways.

Those releases come as U.S. businesses find themselves operating against an increasingly complex backdrop of security issues. For instance, not only is protecting corporate networks, systems and data just about thwarting money-hungry cyber criminals: It can also have a major bearing on international competition and national security. Last month, Symantec pointed the finger of blame at China, claiming that hackers operating in that country were responsible for the majority of targeted e-mail attacks responsible for infiltrating networks operated by Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), Adobe Systems (NASDAQ: ADBE) and some two dozen other top-tier U.S. companies.

Larry Barrett is a senior editor at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.