Norton Internet Security 2005 AntiSpyware Edition: Advancing the Fight Against Malware

When Shakespeare spoke of a “tangled Web,” he easily could have been talking about today’s Internet, an electronic jungle that’s filled with viruses, worms, hackers and Trojan horses. Symantec Norton Internet Security 2005 AntiSpyware Edition (NIS AS) is a worthy product that identifies and catches such threats. Aside from its spyware and adware detection and removal features, the program is almost identical to the standard version of Norton Internet Security 2005. Like its companion security suite, NIS AS includes Norton AntiVirus, Norton Personal Firewall, Norton Privacy Control, Norton AntiSpam, and Norton Parental Control.

As the name implies, Norton Internet Security 2005 AntiSpyware Edition offers features that detect and remove spyware — programs that secretly install themselves and monitor your computing actions — as well as keystroke logging programs and adware. While earlier versions of NIS offered features to detect spyware, NIS AS treats spyware programs as if they were viruses, scanning and searching for them based on their unique codes, or signatures — an advance beyond the conventional spyware detection that Norton and others continue to offer.

By relying on signatures, NIS AS can differentiate between spyware risks and legitimate applications. Of course, this depends on how the engineers at Symantec identify and define the programs. NIS AS quarantines and repairs spyware that it identifies as high-risk. Lower-risk programs generate alerts that indicate the risk category (performance, privacy, etc.), symptoms, behavior of the risk and transmission details and then recommends an action.

With its signature approach, NIS AS works well when identifying established spyware and adware. As you would expect, the program does a great job of identifying the known threats that are listed on the Symantec site as well as those in other sources. The program also does an exemplary job of warning you about various threats, recommending a course of action and, when appropriate, removing the threat.

To ensure that its signature files stay current, the program relies on Symantec Automatic LiveUpdate service. Symantec includes only a one-year subscription for free signature updates, which, unfortunately, is standard industry practice. Once the year is up, you have to renew your subscription and shell out more money.

Beyond Spyware

To protect your computer from viruses, Norton Anti-Virus recognizes viruses in e-mail and data files, scans a PC’s hard drive for viruses, and offers options to delete, clean or quarantine infected files. The software blocks viruses in instant message attachments and scans and cleans incoming and outgoing e-mail messages, including attached compressed files. As when updating spyware definitions, the program automatically updates its virus signature files — the descriptions of the various viruses — through Symantec LiveUpdate service.

Norton Firewall effectively places a barrier between the Internet and your PC to hide it from hackers and prevent hackers from accessing data files. The firewall analyzes network and Internet traffic and restricts network communications between a PC and the outside world, and it blocks and tracks hacker attacks, including Trojan horses, HTTP attacks, denial of service attacks, attacks to operating system vulnerabilities, data leakage and e-mail worms. Along with alerts, the software provides a description of the attacker and disruption.

Norton Firewall is particularly important to people who maintain a continuous connection to the Internet via cable, DSL or other direct connection. A new feature in the 2005 version automatically turns the firewall back on after a set period of time if you need to temporarily turn it off.

Additional Security Components in NIS AS
To fight unwanted e-mail, Norton AntiSpam integrates with Microsoft Outlook and most popular client e-mail programs. The program looks at incoming e-mail, identifies those that are spam and places them into a spam folder. If you find a legitimate e-mail in your spam folder, you can tell Norton to allow e-mail from this sender the next time (in something called an Allowed List). The program also filters e-mail from Yahoo Mail accounts and synchronizes its Allowed List to reflect contacts in your e-mail address books.

Norton Privacy Control, which was introduced in the 2005 version, prevents confidential information from being sent out without your knowledge in e-mail, instant messages, Microsoft Office attachments and Web forms. Finally, for concerned parents, Norton Parental Control effectively blocks access to Web sites and newsgroups that you consider unsuitable for children. Kids won’t like this one, but it’s a useful tool for parents.

While the programs in NIS AS make your computer safer, they slow down operations. Generally, the faster your computer, the less you’ll notice the additional overhead. But if you have a slower computer with limited RAM, the slowdown will be significant. In this case, security and peace of mind come at a considerable price.

Another potential downside: some (especially existing NIS customers) will dislike the fact that you have to purchase the entire Norton Internet Security 2005 suite in order to obtain the anti-spyware features. And if your system is running an older version of Windows, you won’t be able to use NIS AS Edition at all — the program is only designed to run on PCs with Microsoft Windows XP or Windows 2000 Professional operating systems.

Bottom Line
As a first line of defense against the Internet’s evils, Norton Internet Security 2005 AntiSpyware Edition is a competent and worthwhile product that can act as a virtual bouncer standing at your PC’s Internet door.

Norton Internet Security 2005 AntiSpyware Edition is available for purchase via electronic download for an estimated retail price of $79.95. The product is also available at various retail locations and through online retailers. Current Symantec customers as well as users of select competitive products can upgrade to Norton Internet Security 2005 AntiSpyware Edition for an estimated retail price of $49.95 after rebate. Prices include a one-year subscription to updates. You can also try a 15-day free trial before you buy.

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Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing addresses the technology needs of small businesses, which are defined as businesses with fewer than 500 employees and/or less than $7 million in annual sales.

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