Norton 360 antivirus version 4 is really a step ahead of all other previous incarnations of Norton Antivirus. Symantec seems to have systematically addressed all of the users concerns about resource usage and scanning speeds to create an excellent fully functional antivirus. Norton 360 includes an antivirus/antispyware engine, firewall, identity protection, backup utilities, and system optimization features.
The installation was the smoothest I have had with any other antivirus. Norton Antivirus uses large screens and helpful dialogs. The installation was also very quick and took under 3 minutes. The only hold up was when the Norton antivirus services had to be started.
The Norton 360 feature set is huge and I want to take some time to go over the key functionality.
The first feature that I think needs to be in all free antivirus is Insight Protection. Essentially what this technology does, is it automatically identifies all active processes and files etc. and determines if they are non malicious and free of viruses. Norton achieves this by constantly updating the Insight Protection database based upon Norton community usage and Norton’s own trusted rating for every process or file. As of today, Symantec has identified over 81 million files with 64 million good files, 12 million bad files, and 5 million files currently building reputation. Norton can then utilize this information to speed up scanning to only non trusted files and can also use this information to find emerging or zero day virus threats and neutralize them quickly. In real word usage, the software identified 90% of my files as trusted. The Norton Insight list was extremely comprehensive. However, the community ratings seemed a little off for process such as wireless driver services etc. System scans also seemed faster because of this technology.
The next feature is the CPU and memory monitoring. Symantec has definitely taken a lot of heat about previous versions of Norton using too much memory or CPU power. In response, Symantec has tackled this criticism and maybe even went overboard. Norton 360 is now completely CPU and Memory saving centric. The monitoring chart will simply cement this idea as it shows exactly how much computing power Norton is using in conjunction with the rest of the system. The software also shows its current memory saving technique such as “waiting for the computer to be idle.” When idle, Norton uses about 10 megabytes of system memory. In real world tests, I can definitely tell you there is a difference. When most free antivirus are scanning for viruses there is a huge slow down on other computing tasks, not so with Norton 360.
The final feature that I want to talk about is Norton’s vulnerability protection. The Vulnerability Protection system has definitions for hundreds of Windows programs vulnerabilities such as Adobe Acrobat or Microsoft Word. If a user doesn’t have the most update date program and a virus attempts to exploit vulnerability in the software, Norton vulnerability protection will stop the exploit from executing regardless if the software program is patched or not. This feature should be installed on all computers as often people forget that there are additional security holes in software other than Windows. I hope someone releases a freeware program that solves this problem in the future.
Virus Scanning and Resource Usage:
Norton has really made improvements on virus scanning times. The latest software is able to complete a quick virus and antispyware scan in less than 6 minutes scanning 5,131 files. CPU activity also doesn’t jump above 10% on a core 2 duo t7300 series. System memory also remains at a maximum of 18 megabytes during a scan. All of these performance levels are on par or have exceed other free antivirus performance specifications.
In addition to having excellent virus scanning ability, Norton has revamped their Live Update system. Now, before any virus scan is run, Live Update will also retrieve the latest virus definitions. There is a clear commitment on Symantec’s part to show how frequently Norton 360 updates. On the software’s main page there is a counter that displays the seconds and minutes from the last virus definition update. The longest I have personally seen that update counter is seven minutes. With the latest updates, a whole computer’s security is really increased. New viruses and Trojans are released every few minutes.
Virus detection rates for Norton 360 are also excellent. Factor in the advanced SONAR heuristic protection, community insight protection, the most frequently updating virus definitions, vulnerability detection, and a huge company and global virus team backing virus discovery, it’s hard not to see Norton as having some of the top virus and malware detection ratings. AV comparatives gave Norton the Gold award (the highest award) for the 2009 year.
Norton has excellent easy to use sliding menus and a full suite of additional software. There is also an excellent quick select menu where a user can easily turn on or off components. Norton 360 has an advanced firewall with IPS and IDS, backup capabilities, system cleaning capabilities such as a registry scanner, and identity theft and anti phishing protection through Norton’s safe Web service.
I am not really a fan of the Norton Safe Web Extension and IPS plugin. While the security premise is excellent I feel that it slows down Firefox’s browsing experience too much and it feels like any other toolbar as it has several pop-ups. In addition, when the toolbar is enabled it enables all of one’s disabled Firefox extensions which is also very annoying. However, thanks to Symantec for providing a Firefox extension in the first place.
Norton 360 is an extremely comprehensive security solution for any computer and any computer user level. Download Norton 360 here.