Symantec Norton Internet Security 2005 AntiSpyware Edition review

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In this new edition of its venerable Norton Security Suite, Symantec has finally paid attention to the growing problem of spyware. It’s the only change to what’s essentially the standard Internet Security 2005 package.

Symantec Norton Internet Security 2005 AntiSpyware Edition review

Key to this release, though, is that Symantec works differently in its approach to anti-spyware scanning, in that it’s seen as just another component of the global system scan. This all-encompassing approach is to be applauded from the system security perspective, but the implementation falls flat in other regards.

While it would be good practice to perform a full system security scan every day, the ‘one scan fits all’ theory remains just that out here in the real world. For a start, by rolling the spyware scan into the virus component, as well as including scanning for various other security threats, the process takes some time to complete. We used the same test system as in our anti-spyware Labs, and a full scan took an incredible 24 minutes, 48 seconds. During that time, we couldn’t do anything else because of the hit to system resources – not something Norton is uniquely guilty of, but the additional time makes it all the more conspicuous. A quick scan was much faster at only eight minutes, seven seconds. This is actually quite impressive considering the holistic nature of the scan itself, but would still place it second to last in our anti-spyware Labs and more than twice as long as the spyware scanner component of ZoneAlarm 6.

You only need to leave the A-Listed ZoneAlarm 6 in Quick Scan mode after the initial scan and, although you should still perform a full sweep at least once a week, the quick version is enough for daily peace of mind. Unfortunately, it isn’t the same story with Norton, as it simply isn’t exhaustive enough. Like many of the standalone applications we’ve tested, Norton had problems with keylogger threats and also in the blocking section of the test where we attempt to reinstall previously detected threats.

There’s precious little to separate ZoneAlarm and Norton when it comes to signature and application updates, although LiveUpdate does require a little more human intervention than the automatic ZoneAlarm process. In both cases, there was minimal impact upon other applications running at the same time, although it’s still preferable to do your updating either at the start or end of the working day.

When it comes to accuracy with specific regard to the anti-spyware component, Norton had a slightly disappointing detection rate of 61 per cent compared to the group test average of 68 per cent and ZoneAlarm with 78 per cent. Removal rates were excellent, though, rating 78 per cent (68 per cent group, 82 per cent ZoneAlarm), and Norton blocked reinstallation to the same standard as most of the competition with 48 per cent (43 per cent group, 51 per cent ZoneAlarm). All of which resulted in an overall accuracy score of 62 per cent, which would have placed it at a less-than-spectacular fifth in our group test for accuracy alone. Importantly in the security suite market, it would trail behind ZoneAlarm by some margin, scoring 70 per cent (enough to finish third in the group test).

Regarding the other data privacy-protection features, ZoneAlarm also squeezes ahead. It isn’t that Norton is lacking in them, but rather that the implementation is flawed. The credit card protection system, which looks out for your credit card number being sent out over the network, requires the entry of the last six digits of the card number as a continuous string. But if you then type the details in four-digit groups, as is the norm for credit card data online, Norton doesn’t warn you of a possible danger. It doesn’t see 12 3456 as the same as 123456, and that’s potentially a huge flaw.

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