Norton Internet Security 2009: Review

imageChange can be a great thing. We’ve all heard fascinating tales of people who shed half their weight.  But change can also be treacherous and destructive. A peek into history books would reveal us tales of great empires falling apart, leaving nothing but dust behind. Doubtless however, change is powerful.

Symantec’s history over the last few years seems to match the second definition. The huge security company, which just a few years ago has been the biggest and doubtless the most influencing security software developer around, witnessed a steep downfall in sales. The security giant, whose products were once installed in almost every new computer, was taunted by the Revolution of the Internet. Faster download speeds made it easier to find alternatives – some of which were free; so did online reviews and comparisons, which were available to everyone: not only in geeky computer magazines.

Symantec’s products were simply too bloated and buggy, and even as alternatives began to gain popularity, Symantec didn’t make a proper change. Ironically, it was Norton 360, an all-in-one suite targeted at home users, that made a 180 degree change with low performance requirements, a redesigned and intuitive interface and a huge leap forward in general. Now, the latest generation of Symantec’s 2009 security suites is held to a higher standard, as the company makes yet bolder promises. So we’ve tried out Norton Internet Security 2009, and here’s what we have to say.

Installing

Norton Internet Security 2009 (or NIS2009) was off to a rough start. First was the psychological factor: I didn’t want to like it. I had bad experience with previous Norton products and security suites. Second, the installation file is a whooping 58.6 megabyte in size; that’s almost double the size of Kaspersky’s Internet Security suite, NIS’s main competitor, and for years, the better choice of the two.

Once the download was completed, however, I was impressed by the speed of the installation, which only took about 2 minutes in total, not even requiring a restart in the end. No complex settings or daunting wizards to go through, either: NIS2009 launched itself flawlessly and was ready for action in just a couple of seconds.

Features & Interface

So what will you get for your money? Besides the traditional components, such as an anti-virus with active protection and an anti-spyware along with a firewall, NIS2009 offers an anti-phishing component (which blocks access to suspicious or dangerous websites), identity & log-in cards (allowing you to preset identities and sensitive information to enter in websites), parental control (which you need to install separately) and home network monitoring (allowing you to see the status of other computers in the network, as well as their security status – if they’re using NIS2009 too, and also determining if your wireless connection is secure and encrypted).

imageOpening the main window of NIS2009 reveals 3 different parts controlling different areas of protection: Computer (anti-virus and anti-spyware protection), Internet (firewall, intrusion prevention, e-mail scanning and network security) and Identity (identity cards, anti-phishing). Each of these areas takes a different part of the screen, allowing the user to disable or enable their main features with a single click, as well as access a more complex array of settings, shown in a separate screen. There are also two performance bars total system CPU usage vs. Norton’s CPU usage, and a button to launch LiveUpdate. You’ll also find quick help texts near every control on the main screen. All in all a simple and clean layout to which I got accustomed quickly.

imageIf you’re a more advanced user or a control freak, NIS2009 will satisfy your needs. You can control  virtually every feature; the complex settings are organized in categories, and you can access yet more complex settings through the submenus. A bit confusing, but users that choose to dig into these settings will probably know their way around, though I found that basic information like a filepath of an infection, require way too much digging around sub-sub menus. Same for firewall – which is set on ‘silent’ by default (meaning you won’t get notifications prompting you to block or allow programs to connect to the internet). And while NIS2009 does a good job in filtering these, I would like to see the firewall settings laid out in a more basic way and with less digging around menus.

Touching on control freaks, they will definitely like the performance meter familiar from previous versions of Norton Internet Security. This performance meter shows total CPU consumption vs. percent consumed by NIS2009. We’ll touch on the subject of performance later on, but you can also get very comprehensive graphs and reports on background jobs done by NIS2009 when the PC is idle.

image One of the most important innovations in NIS2009 is Norton Insight, a technology allowing you to cut scanning times by mapping known “good” files, either from an online database or from a user input. It works by clicking the Norton Insight button in the main window, and allowing Norton Insight to scan known directories for ‘good’ files. You can also specify specific files that you want to check against the online database. As you can see from the screenshot, on my PC Norton Insight found only 19% ‘trusted files’, but that means many files and a significant reduction in scanning time. The great thing about this feature is that it’s community based. NIS2009 collects data from users (with permission) and tests to see if the same files appear in many different computers. If so, the file is assumed safe by Norton Insight, thus reducing scan times. So, with time this feature can only improve.

NIS2009 also includes the LiveUpdate feature built-in the product, unlike previous versions which had a clumsy and separate application performing updates. LiveUpdate here works flawlessly, and downloads definitions every several minutes. Thankfully, NIS2009 doesn’t disturb you to inform you of this, but more about this later on.

Like most security suites today, NIS2009 includes predefined log-in cards which you can configure and define as you like. You can password protect them or not, and you can set a master password required each time you want to use a certain log-in. All around a basic and easy to use feature, that also uses a toolbar (thankfully supporting both Explorer and Firefox, unlike previous versions) to fill in details. This toolbar also gives you information about site safety (phishing).

Performance & Detection

nis5Performance was one of the biggest issues of previous NIS versions, and this version is lighter than ever. In normal computer usage – background operation with no scans running – Norton consumed between 10 to 20mb of memory; very impressive, and actually better than some standalone products. While scanning, NIS2009 took between 60 and 70mb of memory in a given moment, which on a fairly modern machine should not slow things much.

Like most modern anti-virus solutions, NIS2009 offers a ‘Quick Scan’ feature (scanning high-risk areas), which is quick indeed – on my machine this scan took just under 40 seconds – while scanning just below 4,000 files. A full scan, however, will take several hours – depending on the size of your hardrive, computer speed and amount of files.

Evidently, a great deal of effort has been put to make NIS2009 as silent as possible, hence the  inclusion of Silent Mode (also present in previous versions of NIS and other Symantec products). Like the name says, Silent Mode makes sure NIS2009 won’t disturb you during games or movies. You can set it to detect full screen automatically and turn Silent Mode automatically, or set it for a specific period of time. Once the time is over or full screen is ended, Norton will notify you if there were security incidents during the period. However, to my surprise I found that using Silent Mode isn’t necessary; NIS2009 was very quiet and didn’t alert me unless a shield has been disabled or it found a suspicious activity, even without Silent Mode.

However, not everything was perfect with NIS2009. While security suites traditionally have high detection rates, many have a lot of false positives, and this was the case here. On my clean machine, NIS2009 found several false positives and marked them as ‘highly dangerous’. Also, I encountered occasional problems with file downloads freezing, unless I turned NIS2009′s Active Protection off. Same with bigger file transfers through MSN Messenger. I also didn’t like the short freezing between clicks in the main program window.

Overall I would rate NIS a huge improvement over its predecessors, and a huge success. If you were to list the most common complaints about Norton Antivirus, and Norton Internet Security this release answers them all:

  1. Bloated
  2. Difficult to remove
  3. Large memory footprint
  4. Resource hog
  5. Live Update

Norton has always enjoyed good detection rates, now it has a quality application and interface to go with them. It should be on your short list of antivirus applications. NOD32 was my former antivirus of choice (a geek favorite). I now run Norton Antivirus, and I can say it proudly. Well done Norton!

image image image image

Rating: ★★★★½

Geek-Approved

  • Cameron

    Thanks for the article and time writing it. It is interesting.

  • Cameron

    Thanks for the article and time writing it. It is interesting.

  • Chris

    Well written. I also have experienced the evolution of Symantec's products starting with their System Works line up through NIS 2008. Thanks for taking the time to review NIS 2009. I noticed a huge improvement when I upgraded from NIS 2007 to 2008; smaller footprint with lower memory and processor usage, decreased scan times and the added "anti phishing" toolbar which integrated with IE and Firefox.

    Symantec is definitely improving the quality of their security suites, but I'm afraid that too much damage has been done to their image to the public. I'm sure you have heard numerous accounts of uninstall/reinstall nightmares. If you have to go to a vendors website to download their "removal" tool, (ie; ATI) then the company has acknowledged problems associated with their product. Unfortunately with so many other products available with fewer issues, and the web community pointing the average PC user in so many different directions, it may take more positive articles like yours to convince people to try Norton again.

  • Chris

    Well written. I also have experienced the evolution of Symantec's products starting with their System Works line up through NIS 2008. Thanks for taking the time to review NIS 2009. I noticed a huge improvement when I upgraded from NIS 2007 to 2008; smaller footprint with lower memory and processor usage, decreased scan times and the added "anti phishing" toolbar which integrated with IE and Firefox.

    Symantec is definitely improving the quality of their security suites, but I'm afraid that too much damage has been done to their image to the public. I'm sure you have heard numerous accounts of uninstall/reinstall nightmares. If you have to go to a vendors website to download their "removal" tool, (ie; ATI) then the company has acknowledged problems associated with their product. Unfortunately with so many other products available with fewer issues, and the web community pointing the average PC user in so many different directions, it may take more positive articles like yours to convince people to try Norton again.

  • Deb

    I have NIS2009 loaded and love it. I had NAV2005 then went to other apps for awhile. I went back to Norton after reading good reviews and am not sorry.

  • Deb

    I have NIS2009 loaded and love it. I had NAV2005 then went to other apps for awhile. I went back to Norton after reading good reviews and am not sorry.

  • LDT

    Well that didn't last long.

    http://news.zdnet.co.uk/security/0,1000000189,39610052,00.htm
    Search engine Ask is partnering with Symantec to offer web surfers ratings on the safety level of sites in search results, the companies were set to announce on Tuesday.

  • LDT

    Well that didn't last long.

    http://news.zdnet.co.uk/security/0,1000000189,39610052,00.htm
    Search engine Ask is partnering with Symantec to offer web surfers ratings on the safety level of sites in search results, the companies were set to announce on Tuesday.

  • http://www.slimshadym23.blogspot.com Marudhamaran

    Personally i wave white flag to Avast.
    I've been using it for the past 4 years.
    "Caution a Virus has been detected", that was impressive.
    I worked for a tech support where we recommend Norton, and consumers get a lot of Malwares despite they have good security from Norton. And the Nortton 360 which is said to have a 360 protection for almost all the thrreats including spywares/Malwares, but it doesnot look so. Even other securrity programs like Trend Micro, Mcafee they do face similar issues when it comes to Malwares. What i do for a typical Malware is, I personally recomend Avast and if avast falls for Malwares, use SUper Antispyware/Malware Bytes anti-Malware. Trust me Avast Home premium will do its best.
    This is my conviction with the experience i had with norton for an year. Of course the extend of security breach lies with the WEbsites we visit.
    Hope That Helps. thankyou.

  • http://www.slimshadym23.blogspot.com Marudhamaran

    Personally i wave white flag to Avast.
    I've been using it for the past 4 years.
    "Caution a Virus has been detected", that was impressive.
    I worked for a tech support where we recommend Norton, and consumers get a lot of Malwares despite they have good security from Norton. And the Nortton 360 which is said to have a 360 protection for almost all the thrreats including spywares/Malwares, but it doesnot look so. Even other securrity programs like Trend Micro, Mcafee they do face similar issues when it comes to Malwares. What i do for a typical Malware is, I personally recomend Avast and if avast falls for Malwares, use SUper Antispyware/Malware Bytes anti-Malware. Trust me Avast Home premium will do its best.
    This is my conviction with the experience i had with norton for an year. Of course the extend of security breach lies with the WEbsites we visit.
    Hope That Helps. thankyou.

  • Phoenix

    after reading this posting i feel like trying NIS 2009..long time since since i tried NIS ..nicely written article. :)

  • Phoenix

    after reading this posting i feel like trying NIS 2009..long time since since i tried NIS ..nicely written article. :)

  • http://nortoninternetsecurity eddie chirwa

    I have always used norton and like it but this time around am at a loss. As a student in Netherlands, I went to purchase my norton internet security 2009 and when installing it i discovered the language is Dutch. Well the product is installed on my computer but the language is a problem as I understand English. How can I resolve the problem? I mean how can I bring it to English?

  • Flag

    Thanks for the time and effort on a good article. It re-affirms everything I have read in some of the latest Computer mags out there. Was a Norton user years ago and it was a mess. Experienced everything mentioned in the article on in a negative way. Just recently purchased and loaded NIS 09 and it is great. Is working flawlessly on my computer.

  • Flag

    Thanks for the time and effort on a good article. It re-affirms everything I have read in some of the latest Computer mags out there. Was a Norton user years ago and it was a mess. Experienced everything mentioned in the article on in a negative way. Just recently purchased and loaded NIS 09 and it is great. Is working flawlessly on my computer.

  • http://nortoninternetsecurity eddie

    The comments do not answer my question. I asked how I can change my NIS09 from Dutch to English.

  • http://nortoninternetsecurity eddie

    if I were to reinstall my NIS09, after downlaoding the trial version, am I going to be allowed? What I mean is I thought the product key can only be used once. Since I used it when installing the Dutch version, can I use it in reinstalling hoping to change to English?

  • http://attani.deviantart.com/ Sheryl

    Why does it take over 30 hours to do a scan?

  • http://attani.deviantart.com/ Sheryl

    Why does it take over 30 hours to do a scan?

  • fardin200

    Scan, takes this time because it depends on the files and directories you have on your hard drive. The more files the longer the scans also the type of scan has a great factor. Make sure you are not runnign anything else while scan is taking place if you still have problem then either you have alot of malware in pc or the application is really bad.

  • fardin200

    Scan, takes this time because it depends on the files and directories you have on your hard drive. The more files the longer the scans also the type of scan has a great factor. Make sure you are not runnign anything else while scan is taking place if you still have problem then either you have alot of malware in pc or the application is really bad.

  • Ram

    Hi Eddie,
    I think you are allowed to install/uninstall NIS09 'n' number of times as long as you are using the same machine and your subscription period has not expired.

    FYI, I had installed NIS09 (English) on my machine, later reimaged it and reinstalled NIS09. Everything went perfect.

    Cheers,
    Ram

  • Ram

    Hi Eddie,
    I think you are allowed to install/uninstall NIS09 'n' number of times as long as you are using the same machine and your subscription period has not expired.

    FYI, I had installed NIS09 (English) on my machine, later reimaged it and reinstalled NIS09. Everything went perfect.

    Cheers,
    Ram

  • Carol

    I am NOT happy with Norton right now. I have the 'Spyware Protect 2009 virus'. Even tho I purchased the Norton Internet Security, Norton wants me to pay another $100 to help me get rid of 'Spyware Protect 2009'. I tried using Malwarebytes' Anti-malware yesterday, and it seems to have fixed the problem. But Norton called me back last night again to try and talk me into paying the $100, saying they would make my computer run faster and tell me how to not get the virus again. I said why don't you tell me how not to get the virus again, without me paying you another $100. They said if I don't pay them, that no matter what I do, the virus will spread to all my computers, even tho they all have Norton on them.

  • Carol

    I am NOT happy with Norton right now. I have the 'Spyware Protect 2009 virus'. Even tho I purchased the Norton Internet Security, Norton wants me to pay another $100 to help me get rid of 'Spyware Protect 2009'. I tried using Malwarebytes' Anti-malware yesterday, and it seems to have fixed the problem. But Norton called me back last night again to try and talk me into paying the $100, saying they would make my computer run faster and tell me how to not get the virus again. I said why don't you tell me how not to get the virus again, without me paying you another $100. They said if I don't pay them, that no matter what I do, the virus will spread to all my computers, even tho they all have Norton on them.

  • Carey

    I have NIS2009 on a very new computer (purchased a Dell Studio laptop in April 2009). I can start a scan (either Quick or Full) and it never completes. Just keeps running. And even when I click stop it still runs. Have to reboot to get it to stop. Any thoughts?

  • Carey

    I have NIS2009 on a very new computer (purchased a Dell Studio laptop in April 2009). I can start a scan (either Quick or Full) and it never completes. Just keeps running. And even when I click stop it still runs. Have to reboot to get it to stop. Any thoughts?

  • hsart2@hotmail.com

    I have a new PC new OS and everything works fine untill i install NIS2009. After over 30h with IT i gave up. $80 + 30h = very bad application.

    I dont think i will be using Norton any more . . .

  • hsart2@hotmail.com

    I have a new PC new OS and everything works fine untill i install NIS2009. After over 30h with IT i gave up. $80 + 30h = very bad application.

    I dont think i will be using Norton any more . . .

  • Michael

    I use Mozilla Firefox with the Script Block add in. So I never have to worry about virus. I think the only way I could get a virus is if I did something stupid like go to a popup loaded porn site or went to a site with tons of ads. I bought norton for the firewall. This suite is awesome!

    I will tell you all if your computer is screwed before you put norton on it, it probably wont install or run right. I made sure of this by doing a format clean install. Better to be safe than sorry.

    @Carol. You have so much on your computer my god, it seems to me your trying to download the internet. Buy a usb hard drive. To me it seems from your post that Norton is trying to mafia style you. Who put Spyware Protect 2009 on your machine? Let me guess, it just did it itself right... Magically.

    Take control of your machine!!! SCRIPT BLOCK!

  • Michael

    I use Mozilla Firefox with the Script Block add in. So I never have to worry about virus. I think the only way I could get a virus is if I did something stupid like go to a popup loaded porn site or went to a site with tons of ads. I bought norton for the firewall. This suite is awesome!

    I will tell you all if your computer is screwed before you put norton on it, it probably wont install or run right. I made sure of this by doing a format clean install. Better to be safe than sorry.

    @Carol. You have so much on your computer my god, it seems to me your trying to download the internet. Buy a usb hard drive. To me it seems from your post that Norton is trying to mafia style you. Who put Spyware Protect 2009 on your machine? Let me guess, it just did it itself right... Magically.

    Take control of your machine!!! SCRIPT BLOCK!

  • terry king

    I got a new computer when my other one got sruck by lighting. I had just renewed my norton security one month before my computer got fried for one year. My new computer came with a 60 day free norton service. They just sent me a notice that my plan exspires in 30 days. I still have 10 months on my renewal from my old computer. My question is can I get the 10 months left on my old renewal?

  • terry king

    I got a new computer when my other one got sruck by lighting. I had just renewed my norton security one month before my computer got fried for one year. My new computer came with a 60 day free norton service. They just sent me a notice that my plan exspires in 30 days. I still have 10 months on my renewal from my old computer. My question is can I get the 10 months left on my old renewal?

  • Eric

    To Terry King,
    If you haven't already received an answer by now, Norton has an excellent Customer Support "Chat" line. They will advise you that you can reinstall your initial purchase as long as it is only on one machine. I have reformatted and reinstalled the XP OS on 2 computers and Norton Internet Security in the last month (I have a licence for 3 computers)without problem. As long as you are using your Nortn program legally, they will be only too happy to assist you. Hope that helps.

  • Eric

    To Terry King,
    If you haven't already received an answer by now, Norton has an excellent Customer Support "Chat" line. They will advise you that you can reinstall your initial purchase as long as it is only on one machine. I have reformatted and reinstalled the XP OS on 2 computers and Norton Internet Security in the last month (I have a licence for 3 computers)without problem. As long as you are using your Nortn program legally, they will be only too happy to assist you. Hope that helps.

  • http://www.webtwilight.com/ Webtwilight

    thanks for the tip