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Review: Norton Security Premium

If you wrangle a handful of devices and need extra security software1, Norton Security Premium from Symantec will help.

It protects your computers from malware. Yet that's only part of the story.

There are different versions of the software depending on the devices you use and the licences you buy.

Each version includes identity protection and blocking software to keep your browser away from risky websites.

After that, the feature list varies.

When you buy Norton Security Premium you get a sealed licence card. You then download the software as needed from the web. The product key is inside the card.

There a complex web of what's in or out for each version and device. To make it easier, I scanned this table from the back of the product card.

norton-security-premium

Five, three, one

The most expensive licence costs NZ$135. It covers five devices in a single household. There's a NZ$105 three device licence. A $70 version protects a single device.

Norton Security Premium includes apps for Windows, MacOS, Android and iOS devices. Your devices don't need to have the same operating system. You can mix and match, say, Windows PCs, Android phones and iPads.

The Windows protection is the most comprehensive. In comparison the iOS components don't do much.

Cloud back-up for Windows devices

The three and five device licences include 25GB of cloud back-up for one year, but only for Windows devices. The single licence gives you 2GB of Windows cloud back-up.

If you don't have a Windows computer, you can't use the back-up. So, the software is better value for Windows owners than for others.

Typically you might pay NZ$15 to $20 for 25GB of cloud back-up from other service providers.

Norton's cloud back-up isn't closely tied to the rest of the security software and it is average compared with specialised back-up alternatives. There's no file sync, which is a disappointment.

Default choices

It comes with a default choice of what gets backed up and when. The software doesn't back-up video files or mail. You can change these setting to suit your needs. You can also use the back-up software to make local back-ups to, say, a hard drive.

Norton's initial back-up runs at a slow pace even if you have a fast internet connection. Later back-ups are speedy.

Restoring is easy. You can pick individual files or the lot. One nice touch is that you can browse through the back-up as you would through a local drive.

There's a password manager in the Windows, Android and iOS editions, but not the MacOS version.

Software to protect children from unsafe content2 is in the Windows and Android package. MacOS or iOS users don't get it.

Antivirus in practice

It's hard to judge if antivirus is effective without throwing malware at it in a laboratory. After two months of running the software at home it has yet to spot a live virus or any other malware in everyday use.

That goes for my MacBook and my HP Spectre. Nothing has turned up. Not a sausage. It did find some malware on an old, archived back-up drive. That was some Windows malware downloaded harmlessly onto a Mac by the Apple mail app. But that was it.

That's not to say protection is a waste of time for everyone.

Slow down

The problem is that the software slows computers. I benchmarked the Spectre with and without Norton Security Premium installed. The overhead is between three and five percent depending on what's going on. That's acceptable if you want to stay safe.

Norton's firewall is easy to use, but redundant for most users. It offers extra features compared to, say, Windows Firewall. That can be dangerous in the wrong hands. Still Symantec designed the firewall to need next to no user involvement. Another advantage is that it integrates well with other Norton components.

SafeWeb browser protection keeps bad websites from loading rubbish on to your computer. It pings often, especially if you go down clickbait rabbit holes.

Norton Security Premium does a fine job minding the security gaps on your behalf. There are cheaper alternatives but I've yet to see one as polished.

Symantec has a wealth of experience building security products for non-experts to use. That alone is a reason for everyday users to buy. It also makes Security Premium a good option to put on workplace computers.



  1. Not everyone does. Read Staying safe online is about more than buying security.

  2. This used to be controversial. Some parents see it as creepy. Others are keen to keep their children away from nastiness.


Review: Norton Security Premium was first posted at billbennett.co.nz.

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