Symantec Norton Internet Security (2013) review

Pros

  • Very effective AV & identity protection
  • Easy-to-use interface
  • Frequent Pulse updates
  • Fast scans

Cons

  • Online storage or PC tune-up cost more
  • Single platform cover

Probably the best-known brand of all anti-virus products, Symantec’s Norton Anti Virus, Internet Security and 360 offerings give increasing levels of protection against Internet-based threats.

Norton Internet Security 2013 (NIS 2013) sits midway up the scale and offers antivirus, anti-spyware, anti-spam, two-way firewall, browser protection, parental control and identity safeguards. It’s available in one and three PC licences and is currently at discount. If you need online storage or PC tune-up as well, Symantec can offer Norton 360 for a bit more cash.

Symantec has decided to remove the date designation to this year's Internet Security (IS) releases (we’ve kept it in), which makes it harder to ensure you're buying the latest product and looks like a mistake to us. It's a case of buyer beware, so make sure you're getting an up-to-date licence.

Features and interface

With more than a nod towards the tiled Modern interface of Windows 8, the latest NIS 2013 control screen is very square-cut and supports touchscreens – the software also supports newer multi-core processors. The four main tiles on the home screen provide details or run through to scanning, updates, advanced options and system status.

There’s also a column of icons down the right-hand side for quick access to your Symantec account, mobile security for android devices, parental controls, Safe Web checks and backup facilities. Some of these, like online backup, are for signup rather than features included in the package. Along the bottom of the screen is your subscription status and along the top is a menu of settings and other controls.

One of these is the Performance panel, which flips the home screen round to show the results of recent scans and current system use. Others include feedback and account details; there’s quite a bit here that seems of more use to Symantec than its customers.

One interesting feature of the anti-virus scanner is Norton’s Pulse updates. These happen every five to 10 minutes, sending the latest details on new threats so that, theoretically, NIS 2013 will remain more up-to-date than rival products.

We didn't notice any particular slowdown while running the software and Symantec says that Pulse updates are much smaller than a typical hourly or daily one. You do need a clean, fast broadband link to take full advantage of this, though. Full, conventional updates are also run according to the schedule you set.

NIS 2013 offers browser protection, an increasingly important aspect of Internet security, as it should ward off scams by preventing you reaching dodgy sites. This year it has built-in extra protection for social networking and can check, for example, before you follow links from Facebook.

It offers to store bank passwords and other such details securely in its Web Safe, but there are no signs of particular banking security like the separate secure browser Kaspersky pops up, or the extra protection that kicks in with F-Secure.

You can download basic Android protection as Norton Mobile Security, but this isn't part of the NIS 2013 suite and is available to anybody. You have to pay £15 for a single device to add useful extras like theft protection and the novel ability to make your phone scream.

Usability test results

Scanning 30GB of assorted data took 11 minutes 23 seconds and targeted 105,304 files, giving a scan rate of 154 files per second. This is very good, beaten by only a couple of other products we've tested. Repeating the scan took 10mins 40secs for 123 files less, implying that the program doesn't fingerprint the files it has scanned to reduce times on subsequent examinations.

Copying 2GB of files while the program was performing a full system scan took only four per cent longer than when it wasn't, indicating that there’s not much resource hit when it's running.

AV-Test results

In the most recent tests carried out by the German test site AV-Test, NIS 2013 came second equal out of 25, with a score of 16.0/18.0. This improves on the score for NIS 2012 by a full point.

AV-Test breaks down its testing into three components: Protection, Repair and Usability. The Protection score was 5.5/6.0 and this section is further subdivided by looking at zero-day, new and established malware. The product scored 100 per cent recognition in the second two of these and dropped only two per cent when looking at zero-day threats.

Repair looks at the detection of rootkits and stealth software, its removal and the rectification of changes to critical systems. NIS 2013 again scored 5.5/6.0 and again scored a full 100 per cent in two of the three subcategories. It was well above average, at 81 per cent, in system rectification, too.

The Usability score looks at both the resource impact of the software and on any problems with false positives. The software gave no false indications at any point during the test cycle, though the average slowdown of the test computer was slightly higher than average.

Verdict

Norton Internet Security 2013 really hasn't sat on its laurels since last year's version and as well as the revised, simpler interface, it has improved in a number of areas such as social network security. Symantec continues to offer excellent protection against viral attack and, more importantly these days, against spyware and identity theft too. It did very well on its AV-Test evaluation and was only half a point off the group leader. For the same money, after the current discount period has ended, you can buy IS suites with more features for the same outlay, but the strength in NIS 2013 lies in its core protection, which is difficult to beat.

Specifications

Manufacturer and product

Symantec Norton Internet Security 2013

Antivirus protection

Yes

Antimalware protection

Yes

Antispam protection

Yes

Browser protection

Yes, including Facebook and browser scans

2-way firewall

Yes

Parental control

Yes, with usage reports

Multi-platform support

PC and Android

Online storage

None (Norton 360 includes this)

PC tune-up

None (Norton 360 includes this)

Extra features

Facebook scan with warnings, Smart Startup Manager, Pulse updates

Number of PCs covered

1 or 3