Thursday, 17 December 2009 06:26

Review: Norton Internet Security 2010

Last year when I looked at what was then the groundbreaking Norton Internet Security 2009, I billed it as a lean, mean, malware fightin’ machine, but with the new 2010 version, it’s an even faster malware blaster!
When late 2008 rolled around, and Symantec was launching yet another version of its venerable Norton Internet Security 2009 software, I was originally sceptical that Symantec would actually deliver on its promises that its new version would be faster and better than the last.

After all, in the earlier years of this decade, Symantec’s Norton software was not one for seductive speed, but ever slower speeds degrading into a cyber soup of silicon sludge.

Although many were quick to blame Microsoft, people soon realised that their Internet security software was slowing them down way too much, and over the years, despite Symantec still staying atop the security software sales spreadsheets, Symantec’s sweet sales success was starting to sour.

Seeing the potential of its software besmirching the Symantec name irreparably, Symantec’s CEO surged forward with a new plan: re-write its security software to make it the best in the industry, so as to super-strengthen its stranglehold on the summit of sales supremacy while swiftly swinging its way back into the good books of consumers.

That was NIS 2009’s mission, and it clearly succeeded. Competitors rushed to ensure their security suites were also speeded up, signifying the arrival of much better performance from most of the industry, even on low-specced netbooks.

Now, with the 2010 version, Symantec still leads the pack in consistently strong performance (while not always being the very top spot, as seen in this Passmark AV report- PDF link), strengthens its various features and introduces, as has some of its competitors, a cloud-based “reputation” engine that can immediately tell you whether the file you’ve just downloaded is seen as safe by Norton users, is seen as dangerous, or is too new to accurately give a rating on.

For consumers who blindly download things without any real knowledge of what they’re doing, aside from adding nice new programs to their computers, this simple reputation sensing tool won’t stop users from junking up their machines with shovelware freebie downloads, but it could well save them from malicious malware that specialises in menacing mostly non-cyber-savvy users – at that crucial moment right before they accidentally install said malware.

Although there are still yet other new features that you can read about in other reviews on or Symantec’s main website, another area that Symantec excels in, at least when it comes to its software, is graphical user interfaces.

I’ve seen what the competition has to offer, and for some reason, Symantec just has the superior user interface, something it has always had, even in the bad ol’ days of earlier Norton versions.

The competition all sport very functional interfaces too, some even looking as though they have been inspired a bit by Norton over the years, but just like the iPhone has a level of smooth that competitors have struggled to simply match, let alone improve on, so too does Norton Internet Security have a level of smooth that effectively leaves competitors choking on some very powdery silicon dust, facemasks at the ready.

What else suggests Symantec’s software is super shiny? Sashay on over to the successive page!

Just like NIS
2009, the 2010 version is also ultra quiet. It’s easy to forget it’s even there, reminded only every now and then when you return to your PC to note that some background stuff had been going on which stops when you’re back to working on your PC, instead of finding creative ways to avoid that work by chatting with colleagues around the water cooler.

You also get the same monthly report that tells you what Norton has done for you lately, and you just get an extra feeling of overall protection that free competitors just don’t offer.

That said, I’ve also tried the free Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) on another of my computers, and it too is quiet and seemingly very effective, but there’s a stack of security stuff in NIS 2010 that simply isn’t part of MSE, much of which probably never will be.

Do I rely exclusively on Norton Internet Security 2010 for my protection? No. I personally prefer AVG’s free LinkScanner browser plug-in to tell me of the live security status of websites I search for in Google, which can be seamlessly installed alongside NIS.

Symantec has a similar feature built into NIS, but hey, I prefer AVG’s in this case and switch Symantec’s off. I also don’t bother with the Norton’s password toolbar, preferring to simply remember my passwords, but that’s only a personal preference – the everyday user could find it very handy indeed in their everyday surfing.

I also like the added protection I get when accessing my bank and other financial institutions online from TrustDefender, software that uniquely offers as-yet completely unbreakable protection from malware snoops and rootkit rats – even if they’re firmly embedded into your computer, whether they’re known or completely unknown.

Both of these packages work wonderfully alongside Norton Internet Security 2010, and in my eyes, enhance it even further.

So, while there are many competing security brands on the market, some of which are very worthy challengers to NIS and which happily protect millions of users, Symantec’s software is still the top of the sales tree for good reason, with speed, safety and satisfaction just some of this suite’s sweet spots!


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.



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