Norton Internet Security 2008: Faster, Stronger, Edgier Protection for Your PC

Unless you’re a reclusive hermit who never downloads files, visits Web sites or shares documents, security threats are regrettably a way of life. To help combat the many malicious evils out there, Symantec serves up Norton Internet Security 2008, the latest version of the venerable security suite that offers some improvements and effectively serves peace of mind.

Norton Internet Security 2008 interface screen shot
NIS sports an edgier looking screen that is mostly basic black and is less friendly than those in prior versions.
(Click for larger image)

The first thing that’s likely to catch your attention in the 2008 edition is how it does a better job of running in the background and dominates less of your PC’s processing power — it’s no longer the outright resources hog of previous incarnations. And the addition of Norton Identity Safe to the mix improves the suite’s anti-phishing capabilities while helping to protect important personal data.

It’s too bad that Symantec didn’t add capabilities from its new Norton AntiBot program to the suite, which would have been a stellar addition (assuming that the product works as well as it’s being touted). But hey, there’s money to be made by selling the product on its own.

As in the past, Norton Internet Security (NIS) offers features that detect and eliminate viruses, spyware, and Internet worms while protecting computers from internet-based hackers through its firewall. The suite rounds out its offerings by ensuring protection from rootkits and blocking phishing sites that may try to steal your identity.

What’s New in ’08
Norton Internet Security 2008 now comes with Norton Identity Safe, which keeps personal information and your identity safe as you shop and bank online and visit Web sites. A major convenience: the program stores personal contact information and a credit card, as well as user and password login data, for your favorite Web sites.

While you’ve probably memorized the login passwords for your favorite sites, the program is great for recalling passwords to those sites that you only occasionally visit. And when you visit a legitimate shopping or banking site, the program fills in the contact information for you.

The program’s phishing protection identifies and blocks fraudulent Web sites that are designed to steal personal information — it strives to sort real sites from imposters. The features found in Norton Identity Safe are an improvement over those found in previous releases of NIS and are a welcome addition.

The Inevitable Slow Down
The downside of security software has always been the hit – often significant – to your computer’s speed and performance. In the case of NIS 2008, Symantec has worked hard to streamline scans and ensure the program works more efficiently in the background.

Based on testing, it appears that Symantec has indeed improved NIS, with the new release being less likely to hog resources and bring computing to a crawl on slower systems. In testing on a fast PC, scans were quicker and less intrusive than those performed with prior versions. However, our test system’s boot time was definitely longer than before installing NIS.

The Interface
Symantec has simplified the controls, which would normally be a welcome alteration. But the significant downside is that the interface is more frustrating if you want to tweak and adjust settings to your preferences. In this latest version, you pretty much turn most options on or off.

NIS 2008 sports an edgier looking screen that is mostly basic black and, in our opinion, less user-friendly than those in prior versions. Of course, security isn’t a happy subject. Perhaps Symantec wanted to make the program look more authoritative.

Recognizing that most homes own more than one computer, NIS can oversee the security on up to three networked computers — it also includes a three-PC license, which is quickly becoming the standard for security software ever since Microsoft released its Windows OneCare Live suite.

Administrators aren’t given a lot of information on other PCs and can’t fix problems remotely, but they can view the options being used on other networked PCs. In execution, this aspect of NIS 2008 functions more like a starter system that offers lots of room for future improvements.

NIS 2008 in Use

Norton Internet Security 2008 phishing screen shot
The program’s phishing protection identifies and blocks fraudulent Web sites that are designed to steal personal information.
(Click for larger image)

You can set NIS to scan daily, weekly, or monthly, as well as tell it to scan on startup or when the system is on and you’re not working. As before, the system scans emails, files, and IM messages for viruses and worms.

The program’s anti-spam features are definitely sub-par. While the anti-spam features effectively install and blend into Microsoft Outlook, the end results, based on our testing, are less than satisfying. The program competently supports whitelists — the ability to define those who may freely send e-mail that won’t be blocked. But the anti-spam features allowed a significant amount of spam to pass, and worse, identified lots of legitimate e-mail as spam.

Searching for legitimate e-mails that are wrongly flagged as spam can take just as long or longer than sifting through unfiltered e-mail and picking out and flicking the spam. But when you review unfiltered e-mail, at least you won’t send important e-mails into that never -never land where it can be forgotten.

Parents can rely on NIS to shield kids from inappropriate Web sites, but the program can’t apply different Web filtering levels to different members of the family. Again, it’s all or nothing.

Symantec has improved its help features. The AutoFix feature identifies problems and suggests potential fixes. And if it can’t fix the problem, it directs you to e-mail, chat and telephone resources. As before, pricing is based on a subscription that includes one year of automatic definition updates, new product features, and access to updated versions.

While it’s hard to quantify the length of time that you may have to wait for phone help, something that Symantec has been criticized for in the past, there is an option for a tech rep to take over your computer and fix a problem. Even though you may have to wait for it, there’s a decent chance that your technical issues can be solved.

Security Specifics
There are lots of security options out there, even from Symantec itself. The company’s own Norton 360 is a competing product that costs ten dollars more and offers features to backup and restore folders and files – even if you deleted them. Norton 360 also hosts an online storage service and can additionally find and fix problems that are hindering a computer’s performance. It’s well worth the extra money if you don’t already have a backup system in place.

For 2008, the addition of Norton Identity Safe and the streamlined background performance are welcome additions. Symantec has delivered a product that is worth the upgrade.

Norton Internet Security 2008 requires Windows Vista, a 300MHz or higher processor, 256MB of RAM and 350MB of available hard disk space. Norton Internet Security 2008 is priced at $69.99, which offers protection for up to three computers in a household (upgrade $49.99). A two-year subscription may be purchased for $114.99.

Pros: Less intrusive and resource-intensive than past versions; stronger anti-phishing and personal identity protection; excellent protection from all sorts of Internet attacks

Cons: No integrated Anti-Bot features, controls lack fine-tuning adjustments, Ad Blocker doesn’t block all ads, slow and less than ideal processing of spam in Norton AntiSpam client, somewhat expensive relative to competition

Adapted from

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