Norton Internet Security 2008: Faster, Stronger, Edgier Protection for Your PC

Your PC confronts a never-ending deluge of viruses, spyware, and hackers. Fortunately, Symantec's Norton Internet Security 2008 release is better behaved and better equipped to handle malware and protect your personal data.
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Unless you're a reclusive hermit who never downloads files, visits Web sites, or shares documents, security threats are regrettably a way of life. To help combat the many malicious evils out there, Symantec serves up Norton Internet Security 2008, the latest version of the venerable security suite that offers some improvements and effectively serves peace of mind.

The first thing that's likely to catch your attention in the 2008 edition is how it does a better job of running in the background and dominates less of your PC's processing power — it's no longer the outright resources hog of previous incarnations. And the addition of Norton Identity Safe to the mix improves the suite's anti-phishing capabilities while helping to protect important personal data.

It's too bad that Symantec didn't add capabilities from its new Norton AntiBot program to the suite, which would have been a stellar addition (assuming that the product works as well as it's being touted). But hey, there's money to be made by selling the product on its own.

As in the past, Norton Internet Security (NIS) offers features that detect and eliminate viruses, spyware, and Internet worms while protecting computers from internet-based hackers through its firewall. The suite rounds out its offerings by ensuring protection from rootkits and blocking phishing sites that may try to steal your identity.

What's New in '08

Norton Internet Security 2008 now comes with Norton Identity Safe which keeps personal information and your identity safe as you shop and bank online and visit Web sites. A major convenience, the program stores personal contact information and a credit card, as well as user and password login data, for your favorite Web sites.

While you've probably memorized the login passwords for your favorite sites, the program is great for recalling passwords to those sites that you only occasionally visit. And when you visit a legitimate shopping or banking site, the program fills in the contact information for you.

The program's phishing protection identifies and blocks fraudulent Web sites that are designed to steal personal information — it strives to sort real sites from imposters. The features found in Norton Identity Safe are an improvement over those found in previous releases of NIS and are a welcome addition.

The Inevitable Slow Down

The downside of security software has always been the hit – often significant – to your computer's speed and performance. In the case of NIS 2008, Symantec has worked hard to streamline scans and ensure the program works more efficiently in the background.

Based on testing, it appears that Symantec has indeed improved NIS, with the new release being less likely to hog resources and bring computing to a crawl on slower systems. In testing on a fast PC, scans were quicker and less intrusive than those performed with prior versions. However, our test system's boot time was definitely longer than before installing NIS.

The Interface

Symantec has simplified the controls, which would normally be a welcome alteration. But the significant downside is that the interface is more frustrating for advanced users who want to tweak and adjust settings to their preferences. In this latest version, you pretty much turn most options on or off.

NIS 2008 sports an edgier looking screen that is mostly basic black and, in our opinion, less user friendly than those in prior versions. Of course, security isn't a happy subject. Perhaps Symantec wanted to make the program look more authoritative.

Recognizing that most homes own more than one computer, NIS can oversee the security on up to three networked computers — it also includes a three-PC license, which is quickly becoming the standard for security software ever since Microsoft released its Windows OneCare Live suite.

Administrators aren't given a lot of information on other PCs and can't fix problems remotely, but they can view the options being used on other networked PCs. In execution, this aspect of NIS 2008 functions more like a starter system that offers lots of room for future improvements.

Next page: NIS 2008 in Use

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