Symantec unveils Norton Internet Security 4.0 for Mac

Software designed to protect Tiger and Leopard machines.

Symantec Thursday announced Norton Internet Security 4.0 for the Mac, desktop antimalware, firewall, antiphishing and online Web-threat protections for the Mac OS X 10.4 "Tiger" and 10.5 "Leopard" platforms.

According to Mike Romo, Symantec's Mac product manager, the package includes security-based updates from Symantec that address vulnerabilities found in the Apple operating system or applications such as Quicktime, sometimes prior to Apple's releasing updates. "Sometimes we know the holes before Apple does, or it takes Apple 45 days to fix them after they're known," Romo says.

Targeted more for consumers than the enterprise, Norton Internet Security 4.0 for Mac is available from Symantec's online store and will be available in retail stores at the beginning of the year.

The software's firewall controls are designed to interact with the consumer, asking whether certain services, such as file-sharing, should be allowed, especially as pertains to remote addresses.

"There are granular controls, so you can decide you are OK with this in a local network, for example, but not on other networks," Romo says. Symantec's firewall for the Mac can also place controls on applications. "When you use it, you will get requests to approve or deny," Romo says. "If you don't approve it, it will deny it."

The software will also automatically block attempts by any IP address to exploit a known vulnerability -- blocking it for least a half hour, though that setting can be modified. The software also includes phishing protection for the Safari and Firefox browsers, with Symantec's "site verified" rating shown in green when a page has been analyzed as authentic.

The antiphishing definitions are updated continuously by Symantec. In contrast, the antivirus definitions for the Mac are updated about once every week, or more if there is a new virus threat.

But the Mac has not attracted virus writers in the manner that Microsoft Windows has, partly because there are far fewer Macs than Windows machines and also because "the Mac OS is inherently hard to write viruses for. For instance, there are no ActiveX controls to exploit, as there are in Windows," Romo says. He adds there were less than 10 new malware samples for the Mac this year in contrast to many hundreds for Windows platforms.

While the issue of running antivirus software on the Mac remains controversial, with some arguing antivirus software simply isn't needed for the Mac, the more cautious approach to security calls for responsible preparation for any future threat, Romo maintains.

The vigorous online public discussion of late about the Apple platform and antivirus has been somewhat "emotional," Romo says, adding that he hopes it become "more rational" in the future.

In addition to its firewall, antivirus and antiphishing features, Norton Internet Security 4.0 for Mac contains a file-lockdown feature called FileGuard that lets users decide which files they may want to prevent from being opened or copied.

The software also makes use of Symantec's DeepSight sensor and honeypot technology that identifies IP addresses linked to malicious Web sites that spring up across the global Internet by providing proactive blocking to warn consumers about accessing malware-loaded sites they may reach.

Symantec expects to have an enterprise version of its updated consumer Mac protection software out next year, but it may not use the same management console that Symantec offers for its enterprise Windows software.

Norton Internet Security 4.0 for Mac costs about $70 for a one-user license. For $80, consumers get both the Windows and Mac versions of Norton Internet Security 2009.

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Ellen Messmer

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