Norton Internet Security 2009 beta ramps up

Symantec's latest iteration of NIS tries to do its job without overloading your system -- and it seems to be succeeding.

Analyzing and fixing risks

All that said, Norton's fix-it functionality hasn't changed much from the same easy-to-intuit interface Symantec offered in NIS 2008. The security suite provides details about detected risks and then suggests the appropriate action, which is initiated with a single click. Drilling down into the risk details pinpointed just where I picked up the two tracking cookies it found.

Security-wise, NIS 2009 serves up the whole enchilada: browser protection against Web-based attacks, Symantec Online Network for Advanced Response protection (behavior-based malware detection that tracks applications to identify new threats in what Symantec says is real time), and intrusion-prevention system capabilities, as well as anti-rootkit, antivirus, antispyware and anti-bot technologies.

The Risk Impact window gives a concise summary of a risk's potential effect on system performance and privacy, how involved the risk removal will be, and its level of stealth, which refers to the number of tactics a given risk uses in order to conceal itself. In this instance, the cookies weren't exhibiting any sneaky hiding behaviors; hence, a low stealth level was given.

It's not new -- it debuted in NIS 2008 -- but one thing that's still fun to play with is the suite's Security History. Here, you can access, for example, a firewall activity history that time-stamps the specific applications that have attempted outbound connections and identifies which ports they use, remote IP addresses, bytes sent and received, elapsed time, and which protocols they use, such as TCP or UDP.

Other log views include Firewall Network and Connections, Intrusion Prevention, Resolved Security Risks and Scan Results. These logs are exportable. It's hard to imagine what a typical home user would do with a collection of such reports, but it's nice that a consumer security suite has the added bells and whistles to satisfy the uber -security-conscious.

Stellar support

Searching for the CPU Meter prompted me to try NIS 2009's One-Click Support, a free support service that connected me almost instantly to live chat with a service technician. Before I could chat, however, I needed a Flash update, which was automatically fetched and downloaded without sending me off to a separate site to get it on my own -- a smart play when you're talking about supporting an ever-more-unsophisticated user group.

The support technician promptly took over my PC with a remote connection, fiddled around trying to find what I was looking for, determined the beta build wasn't supporting CPU Meter, and told me exactly where the feature would be in the final product.

Symantec offers one-click, in-product support for its software, featuring free e-mail and chat support besides its paid phone support. These support channels are open as needed to customers both during installation and beyond.

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Lisa Vaas

Computerworld

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