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Norton Internet Security 2006
by Robert Sanborn

 Having been a Norton Anti Virus software user for years, the routine that I almost always followed was to use it along with several other security products. The first being Zone Labs Zone Alarm Firewall program, and two anti spyware programs, Spybot Search and Destroy, and Lavasoft’s Ad Aware SE.  They have held up very well over the years keeping me and my system free of some of the nastier problems out there. What has started to shake my faith is that after reading several reviews, including the latest from PC World, the old stand bys are falling further and further behind. The other problem I have run into lately is that the updates for Zone Alarm keep crashing into itself.  Finally, the 2004 and to a point, the 2005 versions of Norton Anti Virus have developed a serious problem of bloat and so decided to take a look at some of the newer suites of packages. But the reviews have not been all that glowing. I am also starting to see conflicts between all the anti-spyware programs out there and the firewall software so that is getting to be a problem.  

As I still have several friends that completely trust the Symantec products, I thought I would give the Norton Internet Security 2006 version a try and see how well it works. 

Wanting to avoid any problems with installing it, especially after having several other crashes and hearing the horror stories of installing one company’s product over another, I decided to completely uninstall the old version of NAV and Zone Alarm, and the Microsoft Anti spyware program that I was running on this system. With that done, it was time to install the program. 

Pop in the CD and it takes right off and does a quick scan of your system to make sure you don’t have any glaring problems lurking out there. It then asks you whether you will need to install the parental controls and different accounts. Wanting to just cover myself and the users on this machine, I took the default.  The installation sailed through and rebooted the computer. 

There is quite a bit to this new version of Norton Internet Security 2006. Besides probably the best anti-virus program around, it now includes the Norton Personal Firewall, Norton Antispyware Protection, Intrusion protection, privacy controls, and a new anti spam module.  

Once installed, it will go through and update itself and reboot. The internet security part then starts learning your programs that are constantly accessing the internet. It is absolutely incredible the number of programs that want constant attention online to update, check, and phone home for a variety of reasons. No wonder half the home user world has upgraded to some sort of high speed internet connection simply to keep yourself from getting so bogged down when you do go online with a dial up system. 

I opened up my outlook on my computer and Norton anti spam comes up and asks me whether I want to install it. A good test because this one computer collects all my junk mail so it was a great test. Worked like a champ. I use Outlook and it has rules set up for most junk but I think the Norton did a nice job integrating into it to clear out the rest. All of the mail that came into my inbox was actual legitimate mail. At least on this test it did. 

When you start up Internet Explorer the first time, it pops up to let you know it is protecting your home page from getting hijacked. Another good feature that they are picking up from Microsoft and other anti spyware companies. Of course, having the Google toolbar running on your system also helps to make pop ups a thing of the past as well. 

The Symantec Personal Firewall has a much easier interface to deal with. One thing that really irritated me about Zone Alarm was that whenever a program would update itself, even if you have previously approved it, ZA would ask you again and often twice for the same program. Like the ZA, Norton stays in learning mode to see the programs as they access the internet and then updates its list. If you like, you can configure it to do a complete scan of the programs that will need internet access and when I did, it came up with over 190 programs that it said needed internet access. So I took a look at the list and discovered that many programs were listed multiple times. Windows Media Player, was listed five times; Windows Update, six times; there were 21 different listings for Symantec programs; and Microsoft Operating System was listed 11 times even though many had different icons associated with them. Taking a closer look, I found that if you hover the mouse over the entry, it tells you exactly which program is being listed and in fact, of all the ones above where I said there were 11 different Microsoft Operating Systems listings, they were actually 11 different programs. So you can skip the learning process and tell it to accept everything at once if you like but I would rather it check each program as it goes out to the internet. 

This new version does a much better job of seamlessly installing itself. Before, it would show you what it was doing and have you click next when there was really no other option so it is nice that they have cleaned it up some.  

When you install the system, there comes a Norton Status indicator on your taskbar that I thought was getting in the way as when I have lots of things going on, I didn’t need it taking up so much space so all you do is right click on it and send it to the system tray and out of the way. If you open that system status monitor, you will see a quick summary of how well things are going with the Norton products. Symantec uses the same status for each of their products so you might find for instance that the Performance category shows “Limited Coverage”. Dig deeper and it shows that while Auto-Protect and Spyware Protection is turned on, Improve Performance and Fix Windows Problems is listed as Not Available. Click on the learn more info sends you to their website telling you that you should think about buying Norton’s System Works program. 

While my computer is a fairly clean system to begin with, I had been running Zone Alarm firewall, Microsoft Anti-Spyware, and Kaspersky’s Anti virus program, I was not at all surprised not to find any problems and would have been a bit irritated if it had found something. But I really wanted to see how well Symantec incorporated these features.  

One snag I did run into was that I was bouncing around among programs to see how they reacted to the new Norton and it disappeared from the task bar. Both the information icon and the program icon vanished. Trying to start the program did nothing as well so I attempted to shut down the computer and it refused. I could run programs but it would not shut down at all until I went through task manager and managed to kill enough tasks to crash it with an RPC error that popped up a box that said it was going to shut it down in 60 seconds and sure enough, it did. It then rebooted and it came up just fine. Norton then decided it needed to run a full system scan and so I let it because it really nags you until that task is completed. For good reason, I suspect that many people install the program only after they are having a lot of problems so it makes sense. 

The Symantec Norton products are still major resource hogs by my estimation. I am running this on a Pentium 4 3 gigahertz system with 1 Gig of Ram and it seems to be doing just fine, but so it should with that much horsepower behind it. When I go into task manager, I see 52 processes running and by far, the Norton, and all of its modules, are the largest consuming over 100mb of memory while the scan is running of which 46mb is the scanning process. Even when the full system virus scan is done, the ccApp module still takes 30mb of memory, the largest of any program including Microsoft Winword.  

The real test of these programs will be when we run up against a severely infected system and how well it cleans it up. The technology is evolving quickly as according to PC World’s latest review of Anti-Spyware programs, last year’s top pick Counterspy is now an also ran. If you really want the best of everything, then a security suite of programs probably isn’t going to do it for you. I would also not recommend a suite if you spend a lot of time surfing the web, trying all sorts of programs, sharing files, and the like, and are a high risk for viruses and spyware. For those people, find the best listed in each category which would be: Norton Anti Virus, Webroot Spy Sweeper, buy a good hardware firewall, and interestingly enough, when I looked at the reviews for software firewall, Zone Alarm is usually rated number one but close behind was Norton Personal Firewall. With the problems I have seen recently with Zone Labs products, I would avoid the Zone Alarm firewall. You really need to be sure to uninstall any prior firewall or anti virus program before you start. 

I think Symantec has very much improved the Internet Security 2006 suite and when you consider you get top rated anti virus and a very good firewall program to start with, it can be an excellent choice. So make sure you are running a Pentium III or IV system with at least 256mb or RAM. If you can, kick the ram up to 1 gig. With these kinds of resources in your computer, I think the Norton Internet Security 2006 package is a great deal.

Robert Sanborn is a technology analyst for PC Lifeline. You can reach him through the net at robert@pcll.com



Last Update:06/26/2007


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