Symantec has a reputation for some of the most secure, effective and versatile security tools on the market, and has added a few more strings to its bow with the 2012 range. Norton Internet Security may not be packed full of new features and additions, but core protection has been improved and there are some handy extras that should appeal to those looking to upgrade.
Interface and key features
Norton Internet Security 2012 maintains its recent record of lightning-fast installations with no reboot – in around a minute, you can expect to see the user interface pop up ready for use.
The interface itself has been streamlined even further, and now you’ll see a heavily stripped-down set of key features that simply include starting a scan and performing an update. Everything else is accessible through the Advanced menu or the menu bar at the top of the display, though it has retained the switchable lower window that defaults to the activity map showing worldwide cybercrime activity, but can also show family protection statistics, online backup status and offers the ability to check web sites or search keywords for potential threats.
All of the key security components you’d expect are present and correct, along with network mapping and monitoring, parental controls, social network protection and a smart firewall that does an excellent job of blocking known threats without requiring intervention from the user.
Usability and performance
Though the evolution of the NIS interface is undoubtedly designed to make it ‘friendlier’ for less experienced users, those who want to delve further into the operation of the various components will find it takes a bit of time to work out where everything is.
The fact that the settings menu isn’t layered in such a way as to prioritise commonly accessed components betrays Internet Security’s position in Symantec’s range alongside the more user-friendly 360 – though this isn’t to say that things don’t become clearer with a little practice.
When it comes to performance, NIS is predictably impressive and doesn’t hog system resources while scanning – in our tests it rarely strayed above 40 per cent CPU usage, and we saw no signs of system slowdown on a relatively elderly test machine.
A quick scan took rather a long time though, compared to previous versions, coming in at just under ten minutes. We were surprised to note that the time didn’t improve upon subsequent scans and given Symantec’s reputation in the speed stakes, we were a little surprised not to see faster results.
Other additions and improvements
Security measures have inevitably been refreshed with improvements to the SONAR and Power Eraser tools to help ensure suspicious files and processes are identified, blocked or erased before they can impact a system.
One new tool that’s been incorporated into the switchable window on the main interface is Norton Management, which allows you to manage installs on additional computers in a home network, as well as enabling you to install the software remotely on another machine.
Elsewhere, NIS is now fully compatible with Google Chrome, incorporating its Identity Safe and Safe Web features for tasks such as form-filling, phishing protection and website alerts.
Identity Safe itself can now be created “in the cloud”, meaning it can be used from multiple computers by simply synchronising the data securely on the fly.
Insight has been enhanced to include stability ratings alongside trust ratings for downloaded software. This works in a similar way, but focuses on reporting the stability of software by logging the number of crashes over time – an extra bit of information that might prompt you to choose an alternative, or search for a newer version.
And finally there’s now a bandwidth metering option that will help ensure the software doesn’t use up too much of a limited download allowance, and automated support tool will attempt to fix problems by scanning the installation for issues.
While none of these improvements mark any drastic changes to Internet Security’s features, they do achieve the desired result of freshening up the software for 2012 by responding to emerging threats and improving the usability of some useful components – and there’s certainly enough here to warrant an upgrade for existing Norton fans.
- Same effective security and wide range of features, with some genuinely useful improvements.
- Scans take longer than expected, trawling the wide range of component settings can initially be daunting.
Symantec retains its position amongst the elite of system security tools with Norton Internet Security 2012, maintaining its superb detection rates times and freshening things up a bit with a cleaner interface and some handy new additions. It's still one of the most effective security suites on the market today.