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Norton AntiVirus 2011 Review

Posted on May 10, 2011

A review of Norton Anti-Virus 2011, looking at what it does, how comprehensive it is, additional features included beyond basic AV coverage, and how well it does its job.
A Quick Overview

Norton AntiVirus 2011 is a very good anti-virus application with customizable options and a small footprint, with some extras which add to your computing safety.

Pros:

·    Very small footprint on system;
·    Many scan options;
·    Performance information;
·    Network Security map;
·    IM and Facebook wall scans.

Cons:

·    Network Security has no automatic detection notification;
·    No virtual keyboard;
·    Can’t change size of interface window;
·    Alerts leave screen if there is no response.

The Basics

Norton AntiVirus 2011 is a comprehensive anti-virus solution with some new features since the previous AV 2010 edition. This includes performance monitoring, where you receive messages about high CPU usage by an application; usage by Norton AV 2011 is an exception. Norton Reputation service, which checks software against a database created by other users in Community Watch and Symantec’s information, is also new.

The settings screen offers control over a wide variety of controls. These range from what to scan (full scans, Insight scans, quick scans, Facebook scans, and more), email, and download and website scans. A number of settings let you choose to allow, not to allow, and "ask me" for things like tracking cookies. You set which notifications are enabled on an individual basis; most of them are set to notify as a default. If you want to pause notifications, you enable silent mode. This has different settings, including using a full screen application or burning data to a disk.

Installation and Setup

To install Norton AV 2011 takes about 10MB of memory, and about 100MB of disk space, one of the smallest anti-virus program footprints of the name brand manufacturers.
Definitions for viruses are stored separately in additional space, which is usual. It is quick to install, taking perhaps a minute. After installation, the program immediately downloads the most recent set of virus definitions, and will start a scan. You may be asked to reboot.
Every five to fifteen minutes, Norton will send a Pulse update to your computer, which runs in the background to check for any new threats which have just been added to the Virus definition list.

Scanning

Norton also uses a trusted file approach to the files on your system. If a file is listed in their database as a trusted file, during quick scans it is not scanned, which adds to the speed. During full, system or custom scans, respectively, every file on the computer, or the .exe and registry files, or the files you select are each scanned. Norton specifically examines files known as Files of Interest during these scans. By using a hash sum, Norton can tell from the scan if any change has been made to the file on the computer, compared to the files in their database.

If you do a custom scan on any application Norton automatically adds that to their Files of Interest, and checks on it from then on. This trusted file approach allows Norton to isolate possible false detection of known and trusted applications from their heuristic detection of file activity, allowing for detection of malicious software. Heuristic detection is based on the behavior of a file, compared with the behavior of known threats, so if an application acts like a known virus, Norton will act to repair, quarantine or delete the file, based on what it finds examining that file.

Performance

While quick scans are obviously faster than full scans, they impact your CPU usage, and a full scan should be scheduled at night or a time when you expect to be away from the computer for hours, because there is quite a bit of CPU usage during the scan. You can select an option for scans to run in the background, which reduces the CPU usage to a comfortable level.

Norton provides virus removal tools to aid you if you have an infected computer at the start of your subscription, which are free to download. Once your subscription begins, you receive free support through chat, email or phone. The software allows you to create a rescue disc; one that can be used even if your computer is so infected that you cannot even boot it.

Network Security

One of the more unusual features of this anti-virus application is the Network Security map. When activated, Norton Anti-Virus 2011 examines your home network and notes all computers and devices attached to the network. It then gives you a page with the different devices on your computer network shown. It also shows if the network has adequate security. You can edit to give the devices distinguishing names, if needed, and enter laptop, game console, or another category. Once the initial map is made, new computers need to be added individually. The network security map allows you to monitor any other use of the network, so that your wireless cannot be piggybacked. If an unidentified device appears, restrict the unknown device and change your security information on the network.

Proactive Alerts

A new feature is the Proactive performance alert, to alert you if unusually high CPU usage is taking place in an application, and change things to improve performance. You can also check performance on all running applications. The page gives you information on each application, with a link you can open to go to the file location, whether the application has trusted status, an indication of the number of people who have said it is a trusted program and information on whether it uses low, medium or high system resources.

In the Norton interface window, you can look at CPU usage graphically in blue, with a second row of Norton CPU usage in yellow under it. By hovering over any point on the line, you can see the percentage usage of the highest three applications at that point in time. This screen also shows you when you installed new applications on the computer, and if any warnings or threats were found on that day. Clicking on a warning brings up details from Security history, and you can look into the matter through Norton Insight. Details show you the nature of the threat, the risk associated with the threat, information of what was attempted, and, if the threat meant to send back information to the Internet, where the information was supposed to have gone.

In the image, you can see a warning notification in Norton Insight. Using the details shown about the threat and the time the threat occurred, you can check the location shown and see if there are any other files there from the same time. The image also shows the results of a Norton Insight Scan on a file downloaded at the same time as the threat, which is probably associated with the threat, and was then manually deleted.

Facebook Wall Scan

Norton’s Facebook wall scan is a scan you can enable to check all links on your Facebook wall for potentially dangerous websites. This involves giving Norton permission to access to your Facebook account. If you want you can remove Norton in the Facebook application settings. Norton not only scans all links that are posted on your wall, they allow you to scan any link you are considering posting yourself, and the security status of the link. Norton also has an Instant Messenger scan which scans any attachments you receive through a number of popular IM clients. You configure which Instant Messenger clients to scan in the Norton interface window.

What's Missing?

Norton Anti-Virus 2011 does not have some features found in some other AV programs. If you do not respond to an alert, Norton records it in security history, but does not keep it up on your screen. Many AV programs make you respond to certain notifications before you respond. There is no provision for a virtual keyboard.

You cannot change the size of the Norton Interface Window, so you need to do more scrolling in the settings window than seems necessary. The Network Security window is an excellent idea, but does not have a setting to notify you if a new device appears in your network. It seems a logical step in keeping your home network secure.

The Bottom Line

Overall, Norton Anti-Virus 2011 is a very good anti-virus program, with a very lightweight footprint and customizable settings configured by default to Norton’s recommendations. It has very widespread anti-virus coverage of the different arenas of computer usage; software on your computer, email, browsing, downloads and more. It is also competitively priced and has excellent support, along with several bonus features.

Screenshots

screenshot screenshot


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