The makers of security software are perpetually on a quest to battle malware and devise improved methods of protection, and this will never change. The rate at which we create, share and consume data is enormous, and the means for the same are innumerable. This puts our critical data and identity at serious risk, which is why using an antivirus or Internet security suite on the PC (especially running Windows) is highly recommended.
Norton Internet Security ranks among the top security suites mainly because of its accuracy in detecting malware. It also offers a slew of features including browser protection, firewall and parental controls, all in an intuitive user interface. Let’s find out what the latest version has to offer.
The latest version of one of the most popular security suites
Design and features
If you notice the box pack and Symantec’s website, you’ll notice there has been a change in branding—the names of Norton’s security packages are no longer suffixed by the year. This has been done probably because the packages would continually be updated. So, it’s given that the newly released Internet security suite is actually Norton Internet Security 2013.
The refreshed tile-based user interface
The user interface is quite different than what it used to be in Norton Internet Security 2012. It has been redesigned to go with the tile-based interface used in Windows 8. Thus, you have four large square tiles in the centre of the UI—System status, Scan Now, LiveUpdate and Advanced. It’s similar to what the homescreen of Internet Security 2012 presented, but is laid out differently to make it touchscreen friendly for Windows 8 users. If you have used IS 2012, you’ll also notice that the map displaying cyber threats occurring around the world is missing. Although it displayed interesting information, it wasn’t one of the core functions, which is why it’s fine that it has been done away with.
Contents of the Scan section
If the first tile is bright green, it means that your PC is secure. Besides this, it also shows the CPU usage of both the overall system as well as Norton Internet Security alone. The Scan button offers scanning the computer, reputation scan (based on trust level of the programs and running processes) and scanning Facebook Wall for malware and scams. The Computer and Reputation scan have three modes—Quick (scans commonly infected files and start-up programs), Full System Scan and Custom Scan. The Custom Scan mode allows scanning the entire drive, specified folders or files. These profiles can be edited and you can even create your own profiles wherein you can schedule scans to run at a specific time interval—daily, weekly or monthly. To make it easy on the laptop’s battery, there’s an option to run the scan only on AC power. Further, the scan options include scanning compressed files, cookies and the number of threads to be used for Manual Scan for optimal use of multi-core processors. The custom scan options are three levels deep from the main UI, but with check boxes and drop-down menus, it’s quite straightforward and easy to use. The LiveUpdate tile displays when the last update was run. When clicked, you’re taken to the page from where you can run LiveUpdate, which updates the virus database or components of the suite. On an active Internet connection, updates are delivered every 5 to 15 minutes, keeping the protection updated.
The Advanced tab is the most comprehensive and requires close attention. The options and tools are categorised under Computer Protection, Network Protection and Web Protection. The buttons to the right allow toggling the activity of the components such as antivirus, antispyware, firewall, email protection and intrusion prevention. In addition to this, there are useful functions such as Network Security Map that displays a view of your network and allows monitoring active and unidentified devices. The trust level of the entire network as well as individual PCs and devices on the network can also be set. The more advanced settings are available from the Settings menu at the top. It takes you to a separate window with a tabbed interface wherein you can change parameters pertaining to PC, network, web and program settings at a granular level. For example, the settings related to email protection include allowed and block lists, email clients (Outlook and Outlook Express) and address books (Outlook contacts and Windows Address Book) integration. An interesting feature in the Network Security Settings is the Cost Awareness option that allows restricting data exchange between Norton Internet Security and the network connection in order to save network bandwidth in case you’re using a quota-based connection or a bandwidth limited 3G plan. These settings are only a few among dozens of others that can be quite time-consuming to configure as per your preference. But once done, you can sit back, relax and let the suite do its job.
Too many options in the advanced section
The Performance menu when clicked overturns the window in an animated fashion and takes you to an interface that displays activity log in a monthly graph. It displays installations, downloads, detections, alerts and quick scans performed during the month. A more detailed log is presented in Norton Tasks, which includes additional details like time stamps, activity duration and status. The Startup Manager is similar to the Startup tab in System Configuration available in Windows that comes up when you type ‘msconfig’ in ‘Start menu|Run’. The only difference is that here you can delay startup of less important programs so that the critical ones load faster.
Useful for prolonging battery life
Startup Manager with the option for delaying startups
Our test PC was the Lenovo Ideapad S300 Ultrabook, which features Intel Core i5-3317U processor, 4GB of RAM and 500GB hard disk. It runs Windows 7 Home Basic, 64-bit. Prior to installation, it took a few minutes to download around 120MB of updates. After that, it was a matter of a little less than a minute to complete the installation. We noted the boot time before and after the installation to note the delay caused—the average boot time of 38 seconds was delayed only by 3 to 5 seconds post installation.
In order to save time taken for scanning, Norton Internet Security uses both the downloaded definitions and reputation data. It uses a white list of trusted files that it skips while scanning. We performed a full system scan on the 390GB primary partition on which 28GB was used. It took 3 minutes and 51 seconds for the scan to complete after performing a full system reputation scan.
Norton’s website features a report of a test commissioned by Symantec Corporation and performed by AV-Test. It rates Norton Internet Security the highest among 12 others, which include Bitdefender Total Security 2013, AVG Internet Security 2012, ESET Smart Security 5 and Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security 2012, in terms of protection, remediation and false positive testing. However, AV-Comparatives (click for link) rates Bitdefender and Kaspersky Internet Security among the top—the list of participants excludes Norton’s products, which may raise many eyebrows.
Verdict and price in India
As per Symantec’s website, 1-year subscription for a single PC is priced at Rs 1,039.99 and the same for three PCs is priced at Rs 2,489.99. Two-year subscriptions and 5-user packs are also available. The pricing of Symantec’s products is quite high if you compare it to the prices at which other antivirus programs and security suites are sold—many others, including some of the top performers, are priced a few hundred rupees less, which could make Norton Internet Security less compelling to buy. But then, you’re paying for one of the most reputed and efficient security suites. You also have a choice to use free antivirus programs, but with the lack of parental controls and customer support (24x7 chat and phone support in the case of Norton Internet Security). Ultimately, it’s the security that matters. And choosing the best but not the cheapest would be most sensible.