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Symantec's Norton Antivirus has been a recognized household name for over a decade.
Norton Premium Security is the combination of the powerful Norton Antivirus, Norton 360, and Norton Internet Security, now combined into a super-pack.
As the landscape of online threats constantly changes, Symantec adapted its products which ended up as a full security suite providing malware protection, online safety features, mobile device protection (Norton Mobile Security), parental control (Norton Family Premier), automatic backup and other neat features.
In this Norton Security review I will cover a complete overview and a comparison of the different Norton Security suites with in-house hands-on tests, graphs, and explanations.
Norton's history is quite interesting: it was acquired by Symantec in 1990, after Symantec launched its first antivirus for Macintosh in 1989. Norton was only developing DOS utilities back then and didn't have its own antivirus software.
As the early 90s brought about a variety of PC infections, the Norton group - under Symantec's umbrella - released its first antivirus for PC. As time went by, and more versions were released, Norton controlled over 60% of the PC antivirus and security market in the US.
Today, the Norton security tools continue the tradition that bought them their reputation and brand familiarity, offering competitive prices for top-notch protection.
Norton's headquarters are US-based in Mountain View, California with many offices spread across the world, and the company boasts around 11,000 employees as of 2016.
It is important to note that a US manufactured antivirus is not more bulletproof than one produced in Eastern Europe.
I base this claim on the fact that the FBI allegedly released a keylogger, called the Magic Lantern Trojan, to encrypt emails and accessed passwords and documents during criminal investigations. Norton whitelisted the Trojan so that its antivirus products were incapable of detecting it.
Whitelisting raises concerns about a Trojan's full surveillance capabilities and whether cyber criminals can manipulate it to use for reasons other than law enforcement.
Norton has a variety of security products and other useful utilities.
With a variety of options tailored for different types of users, there's a Norton Security product for almost anyone.
Furthermore, Norton Security is compatible with almost all popular operating systems (no Linux version) and devices.
Let's review the features each of Norton's security products offers:
I recommend the Norton Deluxe for those who need up to 5 devices. If you need more than 5, then go for Norton Premium Security. If there are no special package deals, the price difference between the Deluxe and the Standard product is negligible, so I would go for the Deluxe as it comes with 5 devices.
Our proprietary lab test results calculator displays all the independent lab tests related to Norton over the years in an easy-to-navigate graph.
The unique aggregator tool's abilities speak for themselves, and I recommend you use this tool for all your antivirus and internet security research and while reading this Norton review and the others on our site.
Disclaimer: The calculator is designed to find more tests on a daily basis as they become available to the public by using an automated web crawler.
Data changes over time; the score and ranking we refer to apply to the published date of this Norton review.
Overall, Norton is ranked 4th in independent lab tests and 2nd for protection, which is excellent.
All our hands-on tests are performed on the same standalone dedicated PC.
This test will demonstrate how well Norton Security Premium handles a 1,000 of the newest zero-day malware files.
This demonstration also includes an explanation of malware types and infection methods.
Our tests results speak for themselves: Norton's score was definitely one of the best - 97% - out of all the antivirus providers we tested so far!
All our tests in this Norton review, and all our reviews for that matter, are performed with the same hardware. We also use a lower-end setup to amplify the impact of the tested software on the results. If we were to use top-of-the-line hardware with the latest CPU and a very fast SSD, it would be very difficult to measure the difference in performance impact.
I tested on an open bench PC comprised of the following components:
On this hardware platform, I installed Windows 10 Pro 64-bit and applied all critical update patches effective on January 2, 2017.
I ran Norton Security Premium 2017 (Ver. 126.96.36.199) on a totally clean windows configuration and then disabled UAC (User Account Control); Windows updates; screen saver and power management settings; Windows system restore; all task and scheduler events; windows notifications and error reporting; and taskbar notifications.
All browsers – Firefox, Chrome, and Edge – were configured to show a blank page on startup / home page.
Finally, I copied 100,000 randomly generated files into a sample data folder for the scan duration test. This made up our "clean" image.
Windows only used a single account with no password to ensure automatic login after rebooting. No unknown devices were present or unrecognized in the Device Manager, and I rebooted Windows before doing the tests.
I used a dedicated script (boottimer.exe) to measure time elapse across five looping boot cycles. Our score shows the average time of the five cycles.
|Before Norton 2017||After Norton 2017||Difference|
How does it make sense for the system to work faster after an antivirus installation?
This is the basic test of all performance tests. I included this parameter because some people consider it important, and you can learn about the quality, QA level, and stability of each anti-virus software from it.
However, you need to take the results with a pinch of salt because in today's CPU intensive environment, the modern CPU and SSD disk will not feel the difference between one antivirus and another.
I monitor 3 parameters for a duration of 15 minutes with a windows performance monitor. The first parameter is CPU usage, the second one is memory usage, and the last one is disk transfers per second.
I conduct the same test twice: first on a clean Windows 10 installation, and second after I install Norton Security Premium 2017 (Ver. 188.8.131.52) making sure I apply all software updates and reboot the system.
Norton Security Premium 2017 (Ver. 184.108.40.206) passed the performance test with flying colors!! The increase in resources is almost non-existent, and this is exactly what one should expect from all antivirus vendors.
This is excellent because they pack many extra features in this bundle, and I couldn’t see any significant influence on the computer resources.
In this benchmark I measure the execution time of 3 major browsers (Chrome, Firefox, and Edge).
Once again, I conduct the test on a clean Windows 10 installation and repeat the test after I install Norton Security Premium 2017 (Ver. 220.127.116.11).
This test is essential because most antivirus software monitors the browser internet connection in order to block phishing attempts and scans file downloads.
Each browser was executed 3 times, so I used the average value to represent the increase in execution time in the graph above.
When I work out an average value for all browser tests together, there is an increase of 0.11 Seconds for opening a browser window. This result is very good for this industry although most users will not feel any difference on day-to-day use.
I used Chrome development tools to measure two key parameters.
I repeated this test several times on three commonly-used, legitimate websites to measure the impact of Norton installation.
Note: A lot of variables can influence the test (network latency and load on the web server, or even the time of day), so it is important to consider all three test result sets together.
|Before Norton 2017||After Norton 2017||Difference|
|fatsecurity.com||1.47 sec \ 226ms TTFB||1.84 sec \ 230ms TTFB||0.37 sec \ 4ms TTFB|
|google.com||0.88 sec \ 138ms TTFB||0.42 sec \ 163ms TTFB||-0.46 sec \ 25ms TTFB|
|facebook.com||0.84 sec \ 155ms TTFB||1.23 sec \ 151ms TTFB||0.39 sec \ -4ms TTFB|
|Average||1.06 sec \ 172ms TTFB||1.16 sec \ 181ms TTFB||0.10 sec \ 9ms TTFB|
Norton does a great job with browser integration that you wouldn’t see any difference even on a slow computer.
First, you can see that, on average, Norton does not delay the time you need to wait until the page is fully loaded.
Unlike Google and Facebook, not all sites are fast and distributed globally over a large content delivery network, so if you consider the results of browsing to fatsecurity.com as well as to those sites, you get a more realistic set of results.
If you look at the average loading time of all three sites, you get the basic idea.
I'll start by stating the following:
This is a very popular benchmark performed by many labs on antivirus software, however, if this scan is performed once a day at 02:00 a.m., or at a time that no one is using the computer, why should one care whether it takes 20 minutes or 25 minutes?
Some antivirus software uses a snapshot mechanism that will make sure it scans a file only once; only if this file was changed or altered, the software re-scans it which means this scan should only be performed on new files or files that were edited.
Norton uses this snapshot technology, and therefore our first lab scan shows a duration of 417 Seconds, while the second scan duration was only 216 Seconds!!!
The test benchmark is performed on a folder with 100,000 randomly generated files that contain random characters.
The test scan is performed on the test folder after a definition update and a system reboot.
The full scan duration was 417 Seconds (6:57 min), an average speed of 240 files per second.
You can see that during the full scan, the CPU utilization averages on 47%.
If you take the low performance toll and the relatively slow scan speed of files per second into consideration, and you add the snapshot optimization to that (which changed it to 216 seconds), you get a good balance of performance and speed.
In my opinion, this is exactly how your antivirus should perform.
Again, why would someone care about the time he has to wait for the full scan to finish?
A person might want to know that during the full scan he probably can’t do anything intensive with his PC.
He will just have to sit back and relax while the process finishes, or just schedule it to a time when nobody is using the computer.
What happens if you need urgent help with your PC at a godforsaken hour because malware has infested your PC?!
Will Norton be there to help?
Most probably because Norton offers 24/7 phone & live chat support.
An international phone number is available for urgent cases, but in order to get a local phone number, you have to submit a support request form - this is how they avoid countless calls of questions which they already answered in their extensive knowledge base and forum for other customers who had similar issues.
In my opinion - it's justified.
As a matter of fact, they even present a chart of the best days and times to call support to lower your wait time, which on average is around 3 minutes.
But let's see how Norton fared when I put the customer support platforms to the test:
One of the tests is more pre-sale oriented, and the second one is more technical and requires some knowledge from the support engineer about the product.
We try to conduct these tests on a Monday morning at 9:00 a.m. to make sure it reflects the customer service workload / ticket queue that accumulated over the weekend.
For this Norton review, I checked their live chat, Facebook, and phone call support.
For live chat, I received a response from an agent in 10 minutes, but the answer was very template-like and he didn't recommend backup.
For Facebook, I received a basic answer to my question.
When I called, a representative answered within 3 minutes which was good.
Overall, I wasn't too thrilled with the customer support. If I was asked to give a score right off the bat, I'd probably say 70%.
This part of my Norton review discusses all your need to know about the Norton's features.
Norton Security offers a clean and simple user interface.
You can perform any scan, quick or thorough, with a click of your mouse with the slick and assuring layout.
Norton boasts a patented scanner that offers protection against viruses, phishing, scams, zero-day malware, and more.
Something worth noting, is that as long as you sign up for an automatic renewal, Symantec offers a virus-free guarantee. This means that if Norton could not rid your system of those pesky viruses, you will be refunded by Symantec.
Norton has 4 scan selections:
Quick Scan: This scan examines key areas of a PC where there are potential viruses lurking around because they are the most vulnerable areas for security threats.
The Quick Scan does not scan the entire PC which means it will take less time to run than a Full System Scan. During idle time, Norton runs a Quick Scan when there is a definition update.
Full System Scan: This type of scan scans the PC for all types of malware and security threats.
The Full System Scan performs a deep scan to annihilate viruses and security threats by checking files, boot records, and running processes to which the PC user has access.
When a user runs this type of scan with administrator privileges, more files will be scanned as opposed to running it without these privileges.
Custom Scan: This scans particular folders, files, drives, and removable drives that the user selects.
Custom Task: The Custom Task runs LiveUpdate, frees disk space, backs up data, and optimizes disk volume.
At the end of every scan you can press on a link if you are still suspicious of remaining malware in the system. Once you click on the link, the Norton Power Eraser launches an aggressive malware-detecting tool that digs deep to root out persistent malware and that reboots your computer. You can also launch this Power Eraser manually.
There is also something called the Norton Insight Scan which is used to sort your programs into different categories, namely: unproven, poor, good, or trusted. Another function of this scan is to identify every program's resource usage and prevalence.
You also receive what's called the Diagnostic Report which checks your hardware profile, operating system, network connectivity, and more. It is there to flag any found problems and, in most cases, there is the simple option of the Fix Now button. After you receive a report, you can save it to help the tech support team diagnose problems.
This is known as the basic of malware protection, which is why so many independent laboratories have given Norton good protection scores in the last few years.
When it comes to old school signature based malware detection, you can be sure that if it is a known malware, Norton will detect and block it.
Norton also improved in the last year with a higher test score, which proves that this antivirus provider constantly strives to provide the best malware protection mechanisms.
In our hands-on test video, you can see a 97% detection score.
This is the holy grail of malware protection, and in our internal lab tests we found a good protection with heuristic and behavior detection patterns.
In the past year, there have been many security products that boast a “Next Gen” antivirus and malware protection and claim that this is the only way to protect yourself from zero-day security hazards.
The biggest advantage of behavioral blocking is that, theoretically-speaking, it can stop zero-day malware which is still not documented and filed in a traditional signature database.
For example, if malware tries to delete a crucial system file, the anti-malware software should red-flag and terminate this process.
Although the behavioral approach to detect new malware is very powerful, the downside is that it can create a high rate of false positive alerts. Norton, however, does not have this problem.
Norton offers a full antivirus engine to combat malware.
The malicious URL blocking feature offers a very good solution for real-world conditions.
Norton is known to fend off zero-day malware very well and detects the point of download very accurately, so that it blocks access to the website and wipes out the malicious payload during or right after download.
Norton also analyzes non-blacklisted websites heuristically for any signs of phishing in order to report any suspicious ones.
There is another layer to the malware blocking called the Scam Insight. It scans pages that don't possess any blatant signs of phishing but that can still be considered risky, either because they are new, or because they have never been viewed by the Norton community.
In saying that, it is still an accurate tool that does not flag valid sites.
Lastly, Norton uses a color code system with links to set out the status of a site.
Green means that the site has been scanned and marked safe.
Orange indicates that a website may be risky.
Red shows that a site has been marked with risks.
Gray means that a site has been evaluated.
Websites that have been vetted for online shopping receive a special Norton Secured icon.
The useful part about all the colors is that if you hover over one of them, more details about the website's rating and a link to view Norton's report on the site show up.
Norton boasts excellent anti-phishing protection.
The in-built anti-phishing tool is designed to be effective with its multi-layer protection against fraudulent sites that attempt to hijack your credentials and personal information.
The simple component of the tool is the blacklist, which means that if a site is reputed to be a fraud, Norton reports it as such.
Norton offers ransomware detection and not protection. Norton probably relies on the possibility that its products will detect the ransomware before it can cause any damage.
Ransomware has become a cyber world epidemic that targets everyone.
Ransomware attacks are infections that either locks a computer and denies access to the user or it encrypts your stored PC data, rendering it useless the user gets the decryption key.
In order to unlock the PC or get the decryption code, hackers will demand a ransom payment usually in Bitcoin.
If you don't have your data backed-up, then you will be faced with a serious issue. All your files, documents, photos, and videos will be gone!
This is why it is very important to have a good backup and an endpoint security product that blocks malware from reaching your computer in the first place.
To learn more about ransomware, read our comprehensive article that details the history, types, and targets or ransomware; protection and prevention tips; defenses and types; and much more.
The software can pick up on ransomware files, but it cannot block them.
I would expect Norton to use one of these five methods for active ransomware protection, namely: monitoring high risk folders, checking for higher entropy values, creating honeypot files, creating sacrificial disk/network paths, or creating infinitely-recursive directories.
Norton has a slick firewall which uses whitelisting to inform users which applications have access to the internet based on crowd sourcing and what others do with the app.
The latter means that the firewall defines permissions for programs that it recognizes to be safe, it nukes bad programs, and puts unclear ones on a watch list. If an unknown program attempts to make inappropriate use of your network, the firewall will immediately clamp down on it.
It is a known fact that there are expert malware coders out there who crack vulnerable firewall systems and who manipulate loopholes; however, Norton's firewall resists attempts and innovative techniques that try to disable it.
Symantec offers additional products from the Norton brand, one of which is Norton Utilities, that assist you to clean and speed up your PC and improve performance.
Another nifty tool is WiFi Privacy, which encrypts the traffic between your mobile device and public WiFi networks (VPN), keeping your browsing secure from intruders using a VPN. This tool comes with a unique 60-day money back guarantee.
On the services front, Norton offers 24/7 help desk subscriptions and an additional one-time PC Tune Up service.
Now let's get into some of the features that I feel are worth mentioning and expanding on:
Parental Control allows you to restrict access to certain materials from your children.
When using this parental control tool, you can be notified in real time about your children's actions; thus assisting you to educate them about healthy habits when browsing the web and using online apps and social networks.
All reporting and configuration is done online with an app for Windows, Android, and iOS in order to navigate the local monitoring and enforcement of the House Rules, one of which is to limit the time your children spend online with Time Supervision.
One of the House Rules is Web Supervision which filters the content of and type of sites children can have access to from 47 content categories. Parents can set the filter to either block access or to send the child a warning notification.
Another feature is the Search Supervision enforces children to ask permission to view content with Safe Search and using browser extension for YouTube, Google, Ask, Yahoo, and Bing. In a similar vein, Video Supervision monitors the videos children view on YouTube.
Parents can also pick their own custom set categories and choose to warn, block, or silently monitor.
All of the settings are set to default besides for Time Supervision.
The second component to the parental control is parental reporting and notification attributes which keep a log summary of what the children have been up to.
If you assign an Android device to a child's profile, three more options become available, namely: Location Supervision, App Supervision, and Text Supervision.
iOS users will enjoy the features that the Windows users get, but not the extra features like Android gets.
If you want to learn more about parental control and additional companies, consult this helpful article on the best parental control software.
Norton provides thorough protection against spam by screening, detecting, and blocking spam that come in the form of viruses and spyware that many already reside on your PC.
The spam blocking feature integrates with Outlook and Outlook express to scan emails and links for suspicious behavior and blocks it before it can take effect.
Those using a different email client need to define a message rule in order to toss the marked spam into a separate folder.
The spam filter has the ability to import Outlook and Outlook Express contacts lists into a whitelist of approved senders. There is also the option to add contacts to the whitelist and blacklist manually.
If you pick the Deluxe or Premium package, you can enjoy a multi-device license for up to 5 and 10 devices respectively.
The advantageous aspect to these packages is that users can cover Windows and Mac operating systems, as well as Android and iOS devices without any problems.
This is very useful because today many households consist of a myriad of different OS and devices based on individual preferences. Norton acknowledges that everyone needs protection regardless of the type of machine or device.
It can be a tedious process to manage and monitor your identity and financial security needs.
Norton does all the work for you with a pro-active approach so that it catches fraud attempts in time so that a user won't need to restore his/her identity.
The service consists of Cyber Monitoring which monitors a user's personally identifiable data points and alerts him/her if anything goes wrong.
In order to receive warnings, a user must list his/her email address in the Norton Identity Protection portal.
If the unthinkable occurs, and your identity is compromised, Norton's US-based full-service identity restoration specialists are available around the clock to handle your case and to restore your identity.
Note: Many people are under the impression that if they don't shop online, they won't have their identity or credit card details breached. This is false; identity theft can happen anywhere because of "skimming devices" installed at ATMs, medical IDs at a doctors' office, signing a form to win competitions, or giving a server your credit card to foot a restaurant bull.
The most important fact to mention is that this tool is both for Windows PCs and Macs.
If you want to give your older PCs and Macs a boost, this is the tool with its multi-point inspection and repair service, which is designed to restore performance and speed to your systems.
What happens is that your settings are optimized in order for the start-up speed and overall performance to improve and run faster. In order to improve the performance of the hard drive, the memory is cleared and unnecessary files are removed.
This PC Tune Up comes with 24/7 service, which includes easy access to a Norton-certified technician. The summaries that are provided are also very easy to understand.
All in all, this tool will cost you less than a repair shop would.
The Startup Manager monitors and lists the programs that start automatically when a user starts the computer.
In order to reduce the start time of a PC and improve its performance, users can delay the start of specific programs upon starting the computer.
Norton delays the start of programs by 5 minutes; the first delayed program in the Startup Manager window will start 5 minutes after a user starts the computer, and every subsequent delayed program with start with a further delay of 10 seconds.
With the Central Device Web Portal Management feature you can manage all your installed Norton products from one central dashboard!
The dashboard provides you with an overview of all your managed machines, so that you can perform specific actions once you are logged into the Norton account. The feature is designed to be accessible for novice users - this means any one can manage all the devices they desire from one central "place."
This is a "set and forget" sort of feature which is very convenient.
The utility provides you up to 25 GB of storage space for backing up your precious data using high-end encryption in the process.
The online backup component is pre-configured with a default backup that set which defines what to back up, where to store the back-up files, and when to run the backup mechanism.
The backup includes files in and below the Documents folder for each user, however, it leaves out big email and video files by default. If you want the big files to be backed-up, you can edit the settings or create any number of additional backup sets.
All backed-up files go to Norton's secure online storage, but there is also the choice to back-up locally.
Backup occurs by default when the computer is idle, but you can launch a manual backup. It is recommended to manually launch the the first backup when you are finished for the day because the first one always takes the longest. Any backups after that only transmit new and changed files.
The restore feature is also pre-configured with logical defaults so that the software restores files from the most recent backup to their original locations. However, you don't have to select the most recent backup or the original destinations.
If a user wants to browse and restore a backup set as if they are local files and folders, he/she can open Norton Backup Drive in Windows Explorer.
Lastly, you can schedule a backup set on a weekly or monthly basis with the option to throttle back the bandwidth used for backup; the latter is only done if you don't backup when the computer is idle.
If you want to use Norton as your antivirus provider, then you will need the following requirements:
PC users need Windows XP, Vista, or 7-10, and Intel Pentium processor at 1 GHz or faster for Windows Vista and 7-10 and 300 MHz for XP, 2 GB of RAM for a x64 system (512 MB for Vista and 246 MB for XP), AND 300 MB of hard disk space.
Android users will need version 4.0.3 or later and must have the Google Play App installed.
Mac users need the current and previous two versions of Mac OS X. Note that the Password Management feature is not supported.
iOS users need version 8 or later.
When you inspect an antivirus or anti-malware endpoint solutions, you have to look packages with the overall picture in mind in order to see if it is a complete and standalone protection suite.
Norton has everything I would expect from a top antivirus provider.
The only things I would like to see to raise it above the bar are active ransomware protection and a real file sandboxing option.
Norton's small business security solution comes in bundles of 5, 10 and 20 licenses.
This flexible and scalable product is a good solution for any small business.
Symantec proudly proclaim that Fortune 500 companies are using their cross-device business solution, and it's true.
Norton Small Business provides cloud-based device management and setup, and offers 24/7 support in English for you and for all your employees.
Important to note: The fine print states that not all features are available for iOS mobile devices.
This mobile security product offers real-time protection and extended anti-theft features such as remote-lock, remote-wipe, and even an option to locate your device.
In addition, you can block calls from undesired numbers and backup your personal data in the cloud.
Norton iPhone only has backup and anti-theft, so it's a bit of a joke. There is no malware and security protection but this is because Apple doesn't allow it; it has nothing to do with Norton.
Norton offers Mac compatibility from the Standard-tiered product up.
Mac users enjoy all the basic and additional features that Windows users get including identity protection, PC Tune Up, Multi Device License, and more.
It also detects ransomware and scans emails and USB drives to ensure ransomware and other malware are detected before they can penetrate the system.
So, all things considered, I'd highly recommend the Norton Security Premium product for Mac users
Norton offers a free trial period of 30 days for all of its tools except for the Norton Security Standard.
It offers a 60-day money-back guarantee if you purchased a Norton subscription with a one-year term or more or a perpetual license.
In addition, Norton offers the Virus Protection Promise, which on the one hand is great because they offer a money-back guarantee, but on the other hand, it only applies in case your computer was affected by malware and a Norton expert didn't succeed in helping you to remove the infection.
This tells me how much Symantec believes in its product; to further elaborate on how good the Norton protection really is, take a look at the test results lower on this page.
To sum up my Norton Security review, I can only say that this antivirus software keeps rising to the occasion by providing nearly flawless defense and protection scores in our hands-on test and independent lab tests across all devices and operating systems.
If you insist on a US-based antivirus vendor, then Norton is for you!
If you're still having doubts, rest assured:
You can't go wrong with Norton Premium Security.
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