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Thursday 23 February 2012

Norton Internet Security 2012 Mania Love Collection

The main window of Symantec's Norton security suite was getting pretty darn crowded as of last year. Symantec designers observed that users mostly ignored the dozens of links and controls, beelining for the ones that launch a scan and check for updates. The interface for Norton Internet Security 2012 ($69.99 direct for three licenses) emphasizes those two favorite activities on its main screen and pushes almost all the rest onto a slide-up panel of advanced settings. It's not just a pretty face— Norton Internet Security 2012 did well in all of my tests, without dragging down test-system performance.

Symantec also added more power to the product's antivirus engine. In particular, the SONAR behavior-based detection component now tracks more behaviors and correlates them to identify malicious or risky processes.


The Norton Insight database now offers information about each program's reliability. Based on observing how often a program crashes on the millions of computers tracked by Norton Community, it assigns one of four reliability ratings. And the suite can now refrain from online activity when the computer is using a bandwidth-limited connection.

Powerful Antivirus
At the core of Norton Internet Security 2012 is the same powerful antivirus engine found in the standalone antivirus. For full details, please read my review of Norton AntiVirus 2012 ($39.99 direct, 4.5 stars). I'll summarize here.

All of the independent testing labs that I follow include Norton in their tests, and they give it good ratings overall in both static and dynamic tests. The chart below summarizes recent results. For an explanation of the chart's contents, see How We Interpret Antivirus Lab Tests.

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Norton Internet Security 2012 lab tests chart

When I challenged Norton to clean up twelve infested test systems, it called on a variety of tools. On one system it automatically ran a preinstall scan to neutralize interfering malware. The scan results on several systems included a link that recommended using Norton Power Eraser (Free, 4 stars) to finish the cleanup. One required use of the Norton Bootable Recovery Tool.

Cleanup took a while, especially on systems that needed multiple scans, but the results were impressive. While Norton didn't have the highest detection rate, it scored higher for malware removal than any other product tested with the current set of samples. It also took the top scores for rootkit and scareware removal. For an explanation of how I calculate these scores, see How We Test Malware Removal.

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Norton Internet Security 2012 malware removal chart

Norton also did a very good job blocking malware from infesting a clean system. Its SONAR behavior-monitoring module tracks all activity by each process, so when it detected a threat partway through installation it was able to roll back all changes. Among products tested using my current set of samples, Norton's 8.9 points for malware blocking is beaten only by G Data InternetSecurity 2012 ($44.95 direct for three licenses, 3 stars) with 9.0 points. Norton scored a perfect 10 for rootkit and scareware removal. To understand my scoring system, please see How We Test Malware Blocking.

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Norton Internet Security 2012 malware blocking chart

The Norton Insight database records data about all programs found on the millions of computers connected to the Norton Community. A program that's not found in the database is very likely to be a zero-day virus or a polymorphic threat, so the SONAR system takes a hard look at such programs. This also means that SONAR may block very old or obscure utilities, especially those that perform system-level actions and aren't digitally signed. Most users won't encounter this problem, and whitelisting guarantees that SONAR won't mistakenly block a significant program.


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