Symantec Norton Internet Security 2006 review
The Norton pre-installation routine was the most reassuring of all the suites we tested, beating even Trend Micro in the user-friendly and comprehensive stakes. An initial system integrity and anti-virus scan operation takes place before you do anything else, and Norton gives you the option to view the results log for peace of mind before continuing with the install. At this point, you have to make a decision as to whether to install with or without ‘accounts and parental control’. Opting in means you can configure individual Internet access and protection settings for family members. Parental controls worked well and filtered all they were asked to, although the omission of any time-based restrictions stood out.
Like McAfee, Norton recommends you use it instead of the Windows Firewall and Security Center, turning off redundant alerts while you’re at it. We recommend doing the same, because Norton does a much better job than Microsoft in terms of both presentation and depth. Not only does the Norton Protection Center keep tabs on your current security status in terms of basics, browsing, email and messaging, but it also adds data recovery and system performance ‘at a glance’ monitoring.
The effectiveness of the latter two is wholly dependent upon whether you have Norton SystemWorks installed, and if you do it’s unbeatable as a complete system suite, showing both Iolo and VCOM how to properly integrate system and security components.
Norton’s firewall is stable and competent, but we dislike the way it automatically decides if an app can run or not, leaving you to dig around to retrieve it from the black-listed apps dustbin should you ever want to use it again. An option to say yes or no on first usage, as with most other firewalls, would be nice. Despite this, all our firewall tests were passed with ease. This isn’t surprising considering Norton’s intrusion-protection technology, which automatically blocks access for 30 minutes if triggered by the new port-scanning detection feature.
Symantec has tweaked the anti-spyware protection since we first saw it a few months back. It’s still treated as an aspect of a full system scan rather than a standalone app, which means you’ll need to schedule it to do this during a quiet period, as it takes both a long time and ties up system resources. It is, however, thorough and has clearly been updated to catch more keyloggers, as this was its weak point in our last review. Our stringent tests proved a little too tough, though, with Norton failing our detection-rate tests (78 per cent) and removal (82 per cent), although it did pass the block test with 65 per cent. The anti-spam component is also good, with 96 per cent of our spam being properly detected and a false-positive rate of just 0.2 per cent.
Anti-virus protection is as complete as it is innovative. Although others have followed, the Outbreak Alert function will automatically update your protection should there be a new high-level threat out in the wild, and inform you that you’ve been protected. Then there’s the Bloodhound heuristic protection against virus-like behaviour from unknown viruses, while worm and script blocking also draw upon heuristic techniques. Needless to say, Norton passed our anti-virus tests with ease.
The central management console with its new Norton Protection Center main screen is easy to use. Tailoring itself to your preferences, environment and behaviour dynamically, it provides a personalised view of security status. Minimising to an icon by the System Tray, it constantly monitors your system security and pops up to warn you if anything needs attention, like an overdue scan or a function not working as expected. One click and it fixes the problem automatically.