Symantec aims for “zero impact” security software

Symantec claims its 2009 Internet Security products will have “zero impact” on PC performance.

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Norton Internet Security was once infamous for hogging system resources, but has placed significantly less demand on PCs in recent releases.

Now, Symantec claims this autumn’s product refresh will have no perceptible impact on PC performance. “People have told us ‘security software is too big, it irritates me, I turn it off when I’m gaming’,” said Janice Chaffin, group president for Symantec’s consumer business in an exclusive briefing with PC Pro this morning.

“Fundamentally, consumers don’t want to be bothered at all. We’ve set as our goal zero-impact security,” she said.

The company has a number of ambitious performance targets for the 2009 products. Installation will take less than a minute, compared to the eight-minute average of today’s products. And the client software will have an install footprint of only 100MB, compared with 2008’s 400MB.

Are customers really bothered about a 400MB install in these days of terabyte hard disks? Symantec’s Con Mallon says it’s largely a symbolic gesture. “We’re trying to do it for perception,” said the company’s regional product marketing director. “If we’re at 400 meg and the guy next door is on 200 meg, they say ‘you’re bloated’.”

Smarter scanning

Symantec claims one of the ways the product will make less demand on system resources is by scaling back on the amount of scanning. “Our new technology allows us to scan less,” claimed Chaffin. “We know which files are good files and we can scan those less.”

“If software runs on millions of systems, it’s going to be good software,” Chaffin added. “If software only runs on a small number of machines, chances are it’s bad.”

Is there not a chance malware writers will quickly cotton on to which applications Norton is scanning less frequently and target those? “If they modify a file in any way, we can scan,” claimed Mallon.

Norton will also use the past history of the user to gauge how much scanning is necessary. “If someone’s not been infected before, the chances of them being infected are low.”

Norton Internet Security 2009 and Antivirus 2009 will be out this autumn.

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