An old name in virus protection has some new tricks
Norton Antivirus has been around nearly as long as there have been Internet threats, but that doesn’t automatically translate to an excellent protection application. In fact, Norton Antivirus has had its share of ups and downs.
Norton Security is an identity protection and anti-virus solution that helps businesses protect mobile devices, desktops and data from unauthorized access, ransomware, malware and other hack attempts via a unified portal.
Its privacy monitoring functionality allows users to scan and block various data broker websites from gathering personal information like date of birth, contact number or address.
Norton Security offers a host of features such as dark web monitoring, cloud data backup, remote learning, data encryption and more. It includes a password manager, which enables administrators to generate, and store complex passwords in a secure online vault. Additionally, users can utilize the built-in virtual private network (VPN) to securely browse the internet on share or public connections.
Norton Security is available on monthly/annual subscriptions and support is provided via phone, email and other online measures.
In the past, the application was well-known for being a system resource hog that didn’t play well with Microsoft Windows and that wasn’t always accurate. However, times have changed, and Norton Antivirus has worked to repair that image. In the recent past, Norton completely revamped its offerings and added a host of additional features. We took the software for a spin, thoroughly testing the service, so read on to see our complete findings.
Pros and Cons of Norton
Norton AntiVirus has an overall rating of being an excellent PC protection program. However, here are a few pros and cons to help you make an informed decision.
- Norton offers a new technology capable of handling critical PC files that have become corrupt making them vulnerable to exploits.
- Effective URL protection and blocking of malicious websites.
- Exceptional performance when removing viruses that are deeply embedded in the operating system.
- A clean user interface is easy to understand and use.
- 60-day money back guarantee.
- Removal of real-time threats is not as good as virus removal.
- Technical support can use improvement.
- The utilization of system resources is average using approximately 60 percent of memory and one percent use of CPU.
Norton separates its antivirus features into four distinct different packages: Basic, Standard, Deluxe, and Premium. The Basic version is aptly named, and will only protect a single PC.
The main difference between the three packages is the number of protection features that are provided. Some of the top features include:
- Rapid pulse PC protection that provides updates every few minutes.
- Spyware detection and removal with faster scanning capability.
- Safe Web social media protection for Facebook that provides News Feed scanning to prevent rogue downloads from entering your PC.
- Protection against hackers in the two upper-level editions of Norton.
- Backup and Recovery in the premium edition that includes Blu-ray disc, iPod, and HD-DVD backup with 2GB of cloud storage.
- Parental controls in the two upper-level editions of Norton.
- Free around the clock tech support 24/7.
While it’s core feature is little more than virus scanning and malware removal, I was surprised to see that even the Basic version included identity theft protection and online transaction security. Still, I don’t think I’d ever buy the Basic plan. The biggest thing it lacks, in my opinion, is a virus-free guarantee.
The Basic version includes the following features:
- Only works on one PC
- Protects against threats such as viruses, spyware, malware and more
- Protects your identity during online transactions
- An Intelligent network that identifies new viruses quickly
The Standard plan includes all of the features of the Basic plan but adds more functionality. I think that the Standard plan is the bare minimum I would recommend. Thankfully, it comes with a 100% virus free guarantee, which entitles you to a refund if Norton can’t get rid of your virus.
Type of Protection/Security: Virus Definitions and Heuristic Monitoring
Norton Antivirus still uses the Windows malware definition engine to power its security offerings, and those virus definitions are updated multiple times a day—as needed to stay effective against new threats that pop up. However, in addition to signature scanning, Norton also has heuristic capabilities, which means it’s always watching and “listening” to files on your hard drive to spot any kind of unusual behavior. This helps ensure you’re protected against Zero-Day attacks for which a virus definition does not yet exist.
Scan Locations: Quick, Full & Custom Scans
Most antivirus applications have both a full scan and a quick scan. Typically, the full scan is something the user kicks off manually after the initial scan conducted during the installation of the antivirus applications. Norton Antivirus works in the same way. There are several types of scans available—Quick Scan, Full System Scan, Custom Scan—and the application seems to default to the quick scan. In most cases, this will be all you will need if your antivirus stays active and updated.
Types of Malware: You’re Covered Against Anything That May Target You
The fact that Norton Antivirus has been around a while means the software is more equipped than most to deal with the threats users face on a daily basis. The antivirus applications will protect your system against viruses, malware, Trojans, spyware, worms, rootkit exploits, phishing, and SPAM. The addition of a two-way firewall also ensures you’re protected from attacks that try to leverage network weaknesses.
Ease of Use: Torn Between Two Designs
With the updates that Norton went through, they also seem to have made some changes to their antivirus application interface. When first installed, Norton Antivirus displays a dashboard that isn’t super useful. Fortunately, you can change that to a more traditional dashboard, which many users will find much more useful.
The traditional dashboard includes links to the most commonly accessed features, including Security, Internet Security, Backup, Performance, and My Norton. Click any of these buttons to dig deeper into the capabilities in that category.
Even more, features and capabilities are also hidden in the Settings menu. From Settings, users can dig into Antivirus controls, Firewall settings, AntiSpam controls, Task Scheduling, Administrative and Backup settings, and Exploit Prevention.
One of the best features we’ve found of the Norton Antivirus applications is the regular, multiple times daily, updates of the virus definitions and signature dictionaries.
Update Frequency: Multiple Times a Day Means Faster Protection
One of the best features we’ve found of the Norton Antivirus applications is the regular, multiple times daily, updates of the virus definitions and signature dictionaries. Thousands of new threats appear on the Internet each day, and daily updates could leave you unprotected against a threat for close to a full day. Norton updates virus definitions when necessary, which means you’re protected from the newest threats on the Internet as soon as protection is available.
Performance: Not Quite as Hoggish About System Resources
In the past, the biggest complaint users had against Norton Antivirus was that the application used a ton of system resources; so many that it would often cause a computer to freeze or crash. The people behind Norton have worked hard to change that and make the application more efficient. Even so, it’s still heavy on the use of system resources, and for users running older computer systems, it could mean the difference between a great antivirus application and a piece of software that is nothing more than a headache. On newer systems, like the one we tested on, however, the system impact is not noticeable in most cases.
The quick scan took less than five minutes to complete. The full scan of our test system, however, took more than an hour to complete, and when we ran a custom scan against a portable hard drive with more than 40,000 files on it, the scan took over two hours. None of these scans caused any lags in other computer use, including streaming audio and video content. For most users, the quick scan will be used most often and full scans and scans of portable drives only on an as-needed basis.
When it comes to how well Norton protects your system against threats, AV TEST (an independent testing lab) found that Norton scored nearly perfectly on catching and removing viruses. In the tests we conducted, we found nearly the same results, with one exception. In one instance, Norton recognized a malicious file but did not block it immediately. It did block the file before it caused any damage to our system, but we were surprised the response wasn’t immediate.
We also did not experience any false positives with Norton Antivirus, despite reports from users that Norton does occasionally flag legitimate files as possibly malicious.
One of the most significant improvements in Norton Antivirus is the number of tools and extras that are available.
Additional Tools: Some Nice Extras
One of the most significant improvements in Norton Antivirus is the number of tools and extras that are available with the antivirus. At the basic level (Norton Antivirus Plus), users have all the antivirus, malware, spyware, and ransomware protection they would expect, but they also get online threat protection (in the form of browser add-ons), as well as 2 GB cloud storage, a smart firewall, and password protection.
Jump up a tier, and you’ll gain webcam protection and dark web monitoring. The highest tier antivirus from Norton also comes with LifeLock protection, credit monitoring from one credit bureau, social security number and credit alerts, and data breach notifications.
Type of Support: Expect to Speak to a Real Person
Another feature of Norton Antivirus that’s usually reserved for premium subscribers of competitors’ products is the availability of 24/7 phone support and live help online. If you encounter a problem, you can pick up the phone and make a call to get the fastest resolution. Or if you prefer, the online chat support system is also staffed round the clock. And for issues that aren’t time-sensitive, an e-mail system will net you a response in less than a day in most cases. Norton does not have a support ticket system, but it doesn’t really need one with the other service options that are available.
Price: A Little on the Expensive Side
A common complaint about Norton Antivirus is that it’s overly expensive. Based on our research, we’ve found Norton’s packages to be on the high-end of the mid-range. Norton Antivirus Plus, the bottom tier offering will cost users around $19.99 per month.
The one exception to that is the highest tier offering which includes LifeLock Select and will cost users around $100 to $150 per year, depending on the discounts being offered at the time.
That’s also something to note about Norton Antivirus. The site where you purchase the antivirus software seems to run regular specials and discounts on products, so prices are subject to fluctuate from month to month.
Competition: Norton Antivirus vs. Bitdefender
Norton Antivirus has improved considerably over the years, but competitor Bitdefender is still rated the best in the industry by multiple testing labs and rating agencies. Bitdefender’s lowest tiered premium antivirus costs about the same as Norton Antivirus, but it includes a few additional features, including a file shredder, social network protection, and an anti-tracker that prevents anyone from tracking your movements online.
Where Norton wins in additional features is with the two-way firewall and cloud backup capabilities. These are features that will help users be more protected and recover in the event a threat does become a problem.
At the end of the day, however, because Bitdefender is noticeably easier on system resources and has consistently been ranked one of the best antivirus applications available, we recommend spending your money on Bitdefender instead of Norton.
Overall, I was very impressed with Norton’s updated antivirus solutions. In fact, there are only two things about this service that I don’t like. Firstly, I didn’t like the functionality and features of the Basic plan. It may be dirt cheap, but it doesn’t really offer good value. Secondly, I don’t like the fact that Norton throws more false positives than the average provider.
That’s something that needs to be accepted, however, because it’s better to err on the side of caution. Other than those two factors, I think Norton is an excellent solution that will help ward off cyber attacks and digital threats effectively – and at a fair price.
Last but not least, if you’re still on the fence, then I highly recommend downloading the free trial to see if you like it. It’s worth testing it out at least because you have nothing to lose!
- Product Name: Norton Antivirus
- Price: $5.99
- Platform(s): Windows, Mac, Android, iOS
- Type of license: Monthly or annual
- Number of devices protected: 1
- System Requirements (Windows): Microsoft Windows 7 SP1 and higher, Windows 8/8.1, Windows 10 32- and 64-bit; 1GHz processor; 2GB RAM (Windows 10 & Windows 8/7 64-bit) or 1 GB RAM (Windows 8/7, 32-bit);300 MB available hard drive space
- System Requirements (Mac): macOS X 10.10.x or later; Intel Core 2 Duo, core i3, Core i5, corei7, or Xeon processor; 2 GB RAM; 300 MB available hard drive space
- System Requirements (Android): Android 4.1 or later; 15 MB storage space
- System Requirements (iOS): Current and previous two versions of Apple iOS only
- Control Panel/Administration: Yes
- Payment options: Visa, Mastercard, Discover, American Express, JCB, PayPal
- Cost: Norton Antivirus Plus – $5.99/mo or $39.99 year
- Price: $5.99/month