Symantec is one of the most well-known names in the security software business, and to keep that edge it has to constantly evolve its product offerings to keep up with the competition. With Norton Internet Security 2012, Symantec does just that, making a host of changes to its user interface and debuting several new features that help make it one of the best software suites on the market.
Setup and Interface
Installing Norton Internet Security 2012 was a seamless, straightforward affair. We downloaded the suite from Symantec's site, and after a preliminary search for any competitor's security software, we were up and running in five to six minutes.
The first thing you'll notice when you start Norton Internet Security 2012 are the dramatic changes Symantec made to the software's user interface. Gone are the bright whites of last year's release, and in their place is the classic Norton yellow-and-black color scheme. The setup looks clean, but it offers an exceptional amount of options.
In the center of the screen is Internet Security's system status indicator, which lets you know if your computer is secure or not. Below that are options for scanning your PC, updating Internet Security, and advanced settings. At the bottom of the home screen are tabs for Internet Security's Activity Map, Data Backup, Mobile Security, Norton Management, Online Family, and Safe Web. Clicking on these tabs activates an information banner located directly above them that explains what the features do and how to get to them. Options for in-depth settings, performance, your account, and support are located at the top of the home screen.
One of the things we liked most about Internet Security's improved interface were the changes made to its settings menu. Last year's interface made searching through your settings a bit of a hassle and somewhat confusing for less informed users. The new interface is much more streamlined.
The Settings menu has tabs running across the top of the screen for computer, network, web, general, and help. To the left of the screen are options corresponding to the tab you have selected. Selecting computer, for instance, allows you to make changes to the way Internet Security interacts with your computer. You can change your anti-virus and scan settings, or configure your real-time protection and software updates.
Each tab offers a unique set of options that can be easily configured by even the most inexperienced user. And if you're looking for even more functionality, each individual option can be configured separately, allowing more experienced users to truly customize the software. This is a huge improvement from previous iterations of Symantec's offerings, which we found lacked sufficient customization options.
Features and PC Tune-Up
Norton Internet Security features Symantec's new SONAR, or Symantec Online Network for Advanced Response. SONAR provides you with real-time protection against known threats and detects unknown security risks based on their behavior. When SONAR detects a new high-certainty threat, or a threat that most closely matches the behavior of other threats, it automatically blocks and removes it from your computer. When SONAR detects a low-certainty threat, it informs you about the find and lets you decide what to do with it.
Internet Security 2012 also marks the debut of Symantec's Bandwidth awareness feature, which can be used to limit your network adapter's bandwidth usage. Symantec has also jumped on the secure search bandwagon, adding its Norton Secured Security Badge to Internet Security. The tool displays a Norton Secured logo next to search engine results that Symantec has determined to be safe.
Norton's Insight tool takes a granular look at the software on your computer, from how trusted the software is to how often it's run and how much of your system's resources it uses. It gives users a better idea of what software could be affecting their computer's startup time, as well as overall performance, something advanced users in particular will appreciate.
An optimization tool is designed to speed up your computer's boot time by delaying when software launches, but not only is it hard to find (it's in the top right corner of the Norton Insight screen) it also takes a while to run (about 15 minutes). Before running the tool, it took 1 minute and 55 seconds to boot our Dell 14z and after running, it took 1 minute and 28 seconds.
Security Performance and PC Impact
According to AV-Test, Norton Internet Security 2012 performed very well, just not as well as some of the other suites we tested. In the malware detection test, Internet Security was able to identify 98.94 percent. While that's higher than the average of 97.3, Bitdefender's Total Security 2012 caught everything, and Kaspersky caught 99.4 percent.
When it came to cleaning up malware, Norton Internet Security performed especially well, clearing out 83 percent of threats, better than Bitdefender's 80.7 percent cleanup rate. Like Bitdefender, Internet Security didn't produce any false positives and was able to successfully about to block 100 percent of all suspected malware infections.
A Quiet Mode limits interruptions from Internet Security 2012 based on a set list of parameters. Three settings include Silent Mode, which you turn on manually and runs for a set amount of time; Full-Screen Detection, which activates Silent Mode when a movie or game is running in full-screen mode; and Quiet Mode, which activates Silent Mode whenever it detects that you are recording something with Windows Media Center TV Recorder or are burning a disk.
Activity Map and Cybercrime Index
New to Internet Security is Symantec's innovative Activity Map, a world map with information on worldwide cybercrime activity from the past 24 hours. Clicking on one of the continents will bring up a scrolling list of the cities located on that continent that have the most security threats. The details button on the right side of the map launches a separate scroll with the names of the latest security threats and information about them.
Clicking on the cybercrime index button on the left side of the Activity Map will take you to Symantec's web-based cybercrime index report, which provides the day's cybercrime index, as well as a graph plotting the security index over the past year. The cybercrime index also tells you about the latest personal identification theft tactics, fraud, malware, and spam. Symantec also gives you the option of downloading a cybercrime index widget for your desktop. Overall, it's a nice feature to have, but it doesn't do much in terms of protecting your computer.
With more malware and viruses spreading to smartphones and gadgets, Symantec has decided to bundle its Norton Mobile Security for Android app with Internet Security. Users can download the software by snapping a shot of the QR code that appears when you click on the mobile button on Internet Security's home screen.
But you don't get a complete version of Mobile Security when you download it. You only get a basic edition that includes an anti-malware scanner and anti-theft protection, which lets you lock or wipe your smartphone in case it has been stolen or lost. Users who upgrade to the full version of the software for $29.99 will get call and SMS blocking and web-protection tools.
Backup and Privacy
Offering users an online backup tool is a must for any self-respecting security suite. And while Symantec did include one with Internet Security, it's only a month-long 2GB trial version. And to access this feature, you'll have to download and install a separate app. Norton 360 users get full access to 5GB of storage right out of the box. Internet Security users can upgrade to a 5GB option for an additional $29 a year.
What's bothersome about the tool is that to use it properly, you have to access it from a separate Symantec webpage instead of through Internet Security's main interface, an inconvenience that seems unnecessary, especially when you consider that most other security suites allow users to back up their data from their software's interface.
Internet Security has a decent set of features to protect your identity and data from prying eyes. Identity Safe stores your personal information, including your address, logins, passwords, and credit card numbers and can automatically fill in forms on trusted websites.
Making a return with Norton Internet Security 2012 is Symantec's Norton Safety Minder, a web portal that allows parents to follow what their children have been doing online. We still can't quite wrap our heads around why the company doesn't integrate the feature into Internet Security's main interface instead of forcing users to jump online to monitor their child's online activity.
To register for Safety Minder we first had to log into our Norton Online Family account. From there, we created a profile for our child, complete with his age and sex, and were then prompted to download Safety Minder to our Dell 14z test computer, as well as any other computer our child uses. Once installed, the software asks you to synchronize your child's Safety Minder profile with their computer user profile. When complete, the software will automatically alert you via e-mail if your child tries to perform any task that you have restricted.
What's more, Norton Online Family members are provided free access to Norton Online Family for Android (beta) and Norton Online Family for iOS devices (also beta). The apps provide the same basic functionality of the desktop web portal from your mobile device without having to open a web browser. Now why couldn't they do that with the desktop version?
Internet Security online comes with the basic version of Norton Online Family. So while you'll be able to monitor and control what websites your child visits, what they search for, and who they interact with through social networks and instant messaging services, you won't be able to see what they watch on Hulu or YouTube or how much time they are spending on the computer in general. To get those features, you'll have to upgrade to Norton Online Family Premier for an additional $29 per year.
Norton Internet Security 2012 offers users a slew of new enhancements that will help them keep computers and data safe. The main interface is easy to use, and we like the bundled PC tune-up features and bundled protection for Android devices. Unfortunately, there are some minor annoyances, such as the web-based parental controls and constant feature installations. For those reasons, we give the edge to Bitdefender Total Security 2012, which has a more unified interface and is slightly better at detecting threats. Overall, though, Norton Internet Security 2012 is a great option.