Norton update introduces much-needed improvements

Norton update introduces much-needed improvements

The latest version of Norton Internet Security brings some much-needed updates and improvements to a first-rate product that was groaning under its weight of features. As before, it's a good collection of tools and utilities, offering all the usual 'antis' - virus, spyware and phishing, plus a firewall.

This year's version adds the Norton Identity Safe privacy tool, a network security and management feature, BrowserDefender and improved general performance.

Indeed, the NIS 2008 feature list is similar to that of the more expensive Norton 360, with the principal exception of data backup. Antispam and parental controls can also be added via the optional Add-On Pack. And users can install NIS 2008 on up to three PCs, so it offers good value for money.

One surprising omission, however, is Norton AntiBot, a realtime malware detector. Users might think protection against bots is a key element of Internet Security, but it'll cost extra. The Norton interface has had some cosmetic changes, but the layout of the main screen is just like that of NIS 2007. The suite is simple to use - if there's no big green tick users simply hit the 'Fix It' button. Some of the fine configuration options seem to have disappeared, however, making NIS harder to fine-tune.

Norton AntiVirus 2008 takes care of antivirus and antispyware duties; it does an excellent job of protecting the PC. The firewall is tough and includes intrusion protection. Like most modern firewalls, NIS 2008 does a good job of controlling inbound and outbound network traffic. It's also tough, in the sense that it's difficult for malware to disable.

The new Identity Safe replaces the Privacy Control module and is pretty good. Its job is to store password-protected cards containing personal data, contact information and credit card details. When users connect to a trustworthy website, Identity Safe automatically fills out an onscreen form for them. It can also store username and password information for website login. This feature can be used to automatically visit and log into any Web page.

The suite now provides far more useful assistance. For those with a problem, the first port of call should be the AutoFix feature, which can both diagnose and cure ailments.

If that fails, users can invoke an online chat session with a technician who can even take control of their PC to identify and fix the problem. Our chat request was answered within a couple of minutes.

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