What's missing within Norton 360 are a few surprises. There are no tools specifically targeted for wireless home networks, a rapidly emerging area. Aside from help setting up such networks, we'd also like to see tools that help encrypt the signals with WEP, WPA, or WPA2, or at least monitor whether someone uninvited joins your home wireless network. Of the three super suites, only McAfee Total Protection includes wireless security.
For Internet privacy, though Norton 360 will authenticate a site via Symantec's own servers, it won't store your passwords or credit cards in an encrypted vault unless you download the optional add-on pack. Of the three super suites, only McAfee Total Protection provides an ID vault with the program itself. Total Protection also provides a data file shredder, a must if you have personal files that you don't want hanging around your hard drive after the fact.
We also found that Norton 360 is optimized for Internet Explorer only, and not Firefox and Opera browsers. It could be said that Symantec realizes that Internet Explorer users need more protection, but it would be nice to use the antiphishing feature in Norton 360 on Firefox or Opera. Of the three super suites, only McAfee supports Firefox; none support Opera.
If you've ever used a Symantec Norton product and then removed it because it was too heavy on your system resources, you'll be delighted to learn that Norton 360 feels light compared to the legacy of the past. We counted only three processes running on our task manager, compared with several from McAfee and Microsoft. This is a huge improvement over previous editions of Norton Internet Security, which tended to be very large.
Norton 360 uses the Norton Antivirus 2007 engine, an application that improves on last year's CNET Labs' performance test scores, although Norton turns in a mixed bag of results overall. On our iTunes test, Norton lost ground compared with last year, taking 208 seconds as opposed to 184 seconds last year. On our Sorensen Squeeze test, Norton improved, taking 317 seconds compared to 326 seconds last year. Overall, Norton showed the most improvement with individual file scans; it took only 117 seconds versus 320 seconds last year. But in terms of boot speed, Norton lost ground by taking 4 seconds longer, 66 seconds as opposed to last year's 62 seconds. Visit CNET Labs to find out how we test antivirus software.
To determine how well a product will protect your PC, we refer to test results from two leading independent antivirus testing organizations. In the latest test results from AV-Comparatives.org, Norton AntiVirus 2006 earned an Advanced + rating (the highest), catching 98 percent of all malware tested, and from Checkvir.com, Norton AntiVirus 2006 was one of eight products to earn its Standard rating (also the highest).
For firewall tests, we used Nmap on a closed system with a router connection; however, we were unable to scan the Norton Internet Security 2007 PC. All other vendors tested produced at least some results in the various tests performed. Norton hides or "stealths" a PC from criminal hackers, which is good, though we're suspicious of what we can't see.
Within Norton 360 there's in-program Help and then there's Support. Help consists of in-program FAQs, which are very detailed for Symantec. Either search a term or scroll through the index to find the topics you need. Support is Symantec's technical support for Norton 360. In the final release version, we were surprised at how little is offered. The knowledge base is cool, first diagnosing your version of Norton 360 for any known problems. If you still want help, the program asks you what help you need and provides a a menu of FAQs. There's also an envelop icon that leads you to e-mail and chat support (which are free) or telephone (which is paid; the telephone support service was not yet available at the time of this review). The user guide is a mere 30 pages and only includes the bare minimum of details; use the in-program Help instead. There is no tutorial offered.
Norton 360 is a good example of the "out of the box" thinking needed by traditional security vendors today. By starting from scratch and building an entirely new security product, Symantec has made long overdue improvements to its existing product line. Hopefully next year's release of Norton AntiVirus and Norton Internet Security suite will benefit as well. But Norton 360 is not for everyone. Designed for home and student users, advanced users will want more online-transaction security tools and wireless protection. That said, for home and student use, we think Norton 360 represents the best value of ease, tools, and performance, and we recommend it over McAfee Total Protection or Microsoft Windows Live OneCare.