As a big piece of an larger set of Norton product announcements, Symantec on Wednesday launched Norton Internet Security (NIS) 2012, a major update to its PC software aimed at bringing greater ease of use along with new protections around network-based attacks, unwanted software downloads, and cloud and mobile device security.
Although users want to know that security software is safeguarding their PCs, most of them want to access the software for only a few functions, such as checking security status and performing virus scans, said Jordan Blake, senior product manager at Symantec, in a briefing for NotebookReview.com.
Accordingly, Norton has simplified the user interface (UI) in its Microsoft Windows-based 2012 line-up. About 20 percent of customers, however, like to drill down deeper. For those users, Symantec has added a new "advanced tab."
Blocking network attacks
More and more, though, antivirus software alone isn't enough to protect PCs, accoridng to Blake. "The world has shifted, introducing new risks and threats," he contended. For example, Symantec classifies about 50 percent of all cyberattacks today as "network intrusions."
In these sorts of exploits, interlopers use networks such as WiFi, cable, 3G/4G, and Bluetooth to exploit vulnerabilities in browsers and browser plug-ins and take control of users' devices.
Even before NAV kicks in, NIS 2012 uses network intrusion prevention technology to analyze software behavior for abnormal activities and to block malicious Web sites such as phishing sites. In the new 2012 version, the list of behavioral rules used by NIS has grown to about 500.
"If a [Web] application doesn't have a user interface (UI), or if it's entering autorun and also accessing your Outlook address book, those are things that could be suspicious," Blake said.
Symantec's new emphasis on simplicity can be seen in the settings menu, for instance. In the 2012 edition, users can access all settings through four tabs along the top: Computer, Network, Web, and General.
From the Network tab, you can customize settings for intrusion prevention, firewalls, message protection, and other aspects of network security.
Controlling software downloads
Meanhile, to help prevent unwanted software downloads, NIS 2012 introduces a new metered network settings menu for "bandwidth control," according to Blake.
The new feature lets users set permission levels -- including "no limits," "critical updates only, and "no traffic" -- for specific software applications installed on their PCs.
At this point, anyway, NIS is not able to alert users about software downloads that might put them over carriers' data caps, Blake acknowledged. "But this is only the first iteration. We take a look at user feedback and give people what they need," he added.
Meanwhile, to help thwart downloads of software that might cause system troubles, Symantec has added application reliability ratings -- culled from user feedback -- to its existing Download Insight feature.
If you're looking to install PhotoScapeSetup_V3.5, for instance, Download Insight will tell you that the program is "Reliable," meaning that, "With typical use this program crashes very infrequently."
From a centralized spot in Symantec's cloud, you can now install and uninstall Norton software, manage your subscriptions and licenses, and check security status across multiple devices.
In addition, Symantec has updated Identity Safe, a "secure vault" for storing credit card numbers and other personal information, with synchronization to the cloud for "anywhere access."
In conjunction with the rollout of NIS 2012, Symantec is also introducing Norton Family; Norton Tablet Security, a security suite for Android tablets; and the beta edition of Norton Anti-Theft, a service for cloud-based management and retrieval of lost or stolen PCs, tablets and phones.
Managing mobile devices
Accessible directly from NIS 2012, the new Norton Family service is designed to let parents view and manage what their children are doing online on either Android phones and tablets or Apple iPhone, iPad, or iPad touch devices.
"A parent might want to analyze what Timmy is searching on, or increase Jimmy's time limit for Web access," illustrated Mark Kanok, group product manager for Symantec's mobile division, also during the briefing.
For its part, Norton Anti-Theft expands on the anti-theft features of Norton Mobile Security, a smartphone suite that lets you lock a lost or stolen phone by sending an SMS text message to the device.
Through a feature in Norton Anti-Theft dubbed "Sneak Peek," you can now remotely activate the Webcam on a PC or mobile device to remotely view "surroundings or who has the device," Kanok said.
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