Norton Internet Security 2006

This year's Norton security suite is a mixed bag, offering effective protection from many threats but stumbling with spyware.

October 27, 2005

3 Min Read
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In fact, based on my experiences with NIS 2006, you may want to steer clear of it altogether. The suite seems designed to confuse and even alarm users, mostly because of its seemingly endless barrage of pop-up status messages (which, admittedly, taper off over time, but still seem excessive). Even installation can be quirky; after I loaded the suite and rebooted, the installer warned, "Automatic LiveUpdate is already running in the background," even though I hadn't attempted to run it manually.

If you can overlook annoyances like these, you'll discover the same robust antivirus, anti-spam and firewall tools offered in earlier editions. However, the firewall did cause a problem on my Windows Media Center Edition PC: It blocked automated attempts to download TV guide listings, without giving me a chance to override the setting. Even after manually enabling full Internet access for the Media Center applet (a change I had to make twice before it registered), the guide wouldn't download. Symantec's online knowledge base offered no help for this issue. Eventually I figured it out: You also have to enable access (twice) for Media Center Host Module.

I put NIS 2006's anti-spyware acumen to the test by installing the P2P program Grokster, a known carrier of spyware and other system-clogging junk. Sure enough, NIS detected numerous "high-risk" threats and enabled me to block every one of them. It then recommended I run a spyware scan, which I did. After about 10 minutes, the software effectively locked up, leaving me with a blank "Attention" window that couldn't be closed.

Norton Internet Security 2006 offers a variety of safety tools under one roof. Click to Enlarge

Norton Internet Security 2006; Price: $69.99; Symantec Inc.

After rebooting and re-running the scan, NIS appeared to remove all the Grokster-related threats, but when I fired up Internet Explorer, I found a toolbar that wasn't there before. Thus, even though NIS can ferret out and prevent intrusions, it's not entirely reliable for removing existing malware. It never was able to rid my system of the unwanted toolbar.

The sour icing on this uneven cake is Symantec's notoriously stingy support. Although phone help is available, it's not free, and the number isn't even listed in the NIS manual (which is short and confusing). You have to visit Symantec's Web site, which might not be an option for users with heavily spyware-infected systems. Once you do get through, Symantec charges $29.95 per incident.

Without a doubt, any Internet-connected PC is better off with Norton Internet Security 2006 than without it, especially if you're looking for virus and spam protection. That said, its spotty anti-spyware performance and various other shortcomings make a strong case for either sticking with the current version or considering the competition: McAfee, Panda and Zone Labs offer similarly well-rounded security suites.

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