Can Norton 360 be trusted?

Can Norton 360 be trusted?

Summary: Symantec is about to launch Norton 360 in Australia but will marketing hype overtake quality features?

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Symantec is about to launch Norton 360 in Australia and although the product seems to have some interesting features, it will take more than marketing hype to persuade me that the company has stopped making bloated and unreliable software.

Following Microsoft's lead, Symantec is about to launch an all-in-one security suite designed to protect SOHO users from threats such as Trojans, viruses, spyware and phishing.

The package goes one step further than Microsoft's OneCare Live offering because it provides 2GB of off-site backup space -- allowing very important files to be automatically duplicated on Symantec's servers for safekeeping.

However, over the years I have witnessed Symantec launch umpteen versions of its Norton Antivirus and Internet Security products. Each year the company boasts how it is the most trusted name in security and how its products keep millions of users safe.

The problem is that whenever I write about a Norton product, my e-mail inbox becomes inundated with people sharing their bad experiences and loathing of all products that come in those little yellow boxes.

Symantec has brushed off these complaints by saying I only get such a reaction because of the sheer number of people that use Norton products. In actual fact, I am told, the vast majority of Symantec's customers are very satisfied.

Unfortunately for Symantec, I have years of experience using its security products and have spent a significant proportion of my time helping people try and rid their systems of the dreaded software. Virtually everyone I know that came into contact with Norton Antivirus or one of its counterparts would complain about the user interface, massive resource requirements and lack of actual protection.

So the big question is: has Symantec learned from its mistakes -- will Norton 360 be any different from its predecessors? Will it actually protect your computer and most valuable files or is it simply a massive marketing campaign?

In October 2005, I spoke with Mark Bergman, CTO of Symantec's global operations. He explained that the company had a vision where users' computers would be automatically backed up to secure their most valuable data.

At the time, he said: "We are talking about how to create a system whereby the nature of my having put [the files] on my machine ... they are protected".

Soon, that product (Norton 360) will be available locally. I thought I would try and find out just how reliable those automatic backup systems are. In case of disaster, how sure is Symantec that the data automatically backed-up onto its own servers is safe? Does it provide any guarantees?

Symantec's e-mailed response actually made me laugh out loud.

"Symantec recommends consumers take a layered approach to backup. For example, using the backup functionality of Norton 360, as well as using an external hard-drive or other data protection option," a company spokesperson told ZDNet Australia in an e-mail statement.

It seems Symantec doesn't trust its own infrastructure enough to guarantee the safety of its customers' backup files.

Microsoft has already shown that its security products can't be trusted to protect the company's own operating system. Just look at the recent example where a flaw in Windows Defender put anyone using the so called security product at risk of a highly critical worm attack -- this included Vista users. In the same batch of patches, Microsoft also plugged a critical gap in OneCare.

These developments do not exactly fill me with optimism when looking forward to the rest of 2007.

Topics: Security, Malware, Symantec

Munir Kotadia

About Munir Kotadia

Munir first became involved with online publishing in 1998 when he joined ZDNet UK and later moved into print publishing as Chief Reporter for IT Week, part of ZDNet UK, a weekly trade newspaper targeted at Enterprise IT managers. He later moved back into online publishing as Senior News Reporter for ZDNet UK.

Munir was recognised as Australia's Best Technology Columnist at the 5th Annual Sun Microsystems IT Journalism Awards 2007. In the previous year he was named Best News Journalist at the Consensus IT Writers Awards.

He no longer uses his Commodore 64.

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65 comments
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  • Constructive criticism is only constructive if you highlight alternatives

    I have been involved with both IT and IT type characters for most of my working career, I find that one of the biggest challenges in the industry is that
    anonymous
  • Right on Brother!

    I fix PC's for a living, and Norton has got to be one of the worst pieces of software ever.

    It slows down even the newest and most powerful computers and takes about 2 minutes to load.

    It always displays useless notifications and has many useless features.


    AVG is free, fast and much more effective.
    anonymous
  • Right on Brother!

    I fix PC's for a living, and Norton has got to be one of the worst pieces of software ever.

    It slows down even the newest and most powerful computers and takes about 2 minutes to load.

    It always displays useless notifications and has many useless features.


    AVG is free, fast and much more effective.
    anonymous
  • One word

    Avast!
    anonymous
  • Norton Security Fools

    Norton's products are "has been's" in my considered opinion. For products that a user is required to pay a licence fee it certainly has its fair share of failure. If I have to run a windows machine again it will have Avast! for Home running one it because quiet frankly payware anti-virus is not worth money.
    anonymous
  • why symantec products are good and trustworty

    try and compare any third party product avalible in market that to a symantec product. Symantec products will be at the top. There are some bad experiences also however mostly are fixed. Today symantec does protect 50 million + user;s from internet threat. Pc's are safe much more than yesterday..
    anonymous
  • Sheer Nonsense

    You say that Norton's response is foolish and quite laughable. I disagree with you. Norton is correct in saying that people should be using a layered approach to their security. It is simply common sense.

    Layer 1: My own common sense.
    Layer 2: Norton Products
    Layer 3: Spy Bot Search & Destroy
    Layer 4: External 500 GB Hard Drive for back ups.
    Layer 5: Use Norton Back Ups as well to back up the back ups.

    Using these five layers - I have NEVER had a problem with viruses, trojans, hacks, or anything malicious. The only thing that I did that was stupid was spill coffee on my laptop.

    I think that you ought to encourage your readers to realize that layers are best in addition to using Norton.

    You are simply misguided. Maybe you have an axe to grind. I don't know
    anonymous
  • N360 - PC Magazine and Cnet Editor's Choice

    In the USA, both PC Magazine and Cnet have actually tested Norton 360, and both rate it as an "Editor's Choice".
    anonymous
  • Geez, yet another beat-up

    Talk about trolling at its best ... I am getting so tired of this sensationalist, techno-tabloid crap.

    Where's the objectivity? Where's the balance? Where's the expert opinions? This is simply a sensationalist beat-up masquerading as editorial with an aim of solely trolling for web traffic.
    anonymous
  • I agree with common sense

    Some form of protection is needed, regardless of the type of security used. 90 % of the problems are associated with windows security flaws. Its like trying to patch a leaking basement foundation.
    Steps like regular backup is very important, seeing that the cost of backing up is so inexpensive why are people not taking advantage of this? Only one word comes to mind...pure lasyness.
    I use these steps:
    1. common sense. 2. Trusted sites. 3. e-mail philtering. 4. Regular Backup. 5. 360 on one machine, antivir on the other. 6. use of firefox for browsing (this in itself is 90% of your security.
    anonymous
  • Well. I have it.

    Look guy. I have it. And I'm telling you Norton 360 is even more useless than its former versions. Now even less customizable, and generates more CPU overhead than your regular leading AV software!
    But no, seriously. My university requires all systems to use McAffee in order to be able to gain access, and after using my laptop both at home and at school, I've had no attacks, no problems, no adware, and behold - I can actually use programs without them being blocked. Amazing.
    When Symantec releases a decent product, I'll eat this LCD monitor I'm staring at. I swear it.
    anonymous
  • Norton 360 problems

    Here is a non sensationalist tale;
    1) Had perfectly functioning PC.
    2) Bought and installed Norton 360
    3) Have a PC full of problems including system freezes and unbelievable slowing of operation. XP send error reports to MS on a regular basis now. The backup facility of 360 just does not work.
    Very poor software.
    anonymous
  • Norton 360 is not as good as claimed

    I stated using Norton 360 4 months back with Vista and XP. After 1 month, N360 is blocked during Vista start-up. The technical support team has tried to guide me to resolve the problems through emails. I removed and reinstalled several times and the problem still exists. In the case of using N360 with XP, all out of a sudden, N360 blocked me from assessing a few websites (due to Engine Error) which I had assessed without any problem before. I had to removed and reinstalled N360 to resolve the problem. I had subscribed N360 for 2 years since March this year and I am thinking of abandoning it now. I has been quite frustrating for me over the last 2 months with N360.
    anonymous
  • Horrid Norton 360!!!

    I always thought Norton products were uselss and left them to use McAfee a while ago. I just bought a new PC with Vista which was working like a dream till I installed Norton 360. My PC is now much slower and constantly freezes sites I used to open usually which means I have to restart the PC to be able to open up the sites again but it soon freezes afterwards. It's come up with a new one now. I can't access my hotmail account. Its completely blocked me out of it saying it's revoked this organisations (hotmail) certificate which is ridiculous. I'm about to uninstall it and throw it in the bin. Its been a nightmare and the helpline costs a fortune. Tell anyone you know that's thinking of buying this to run for the hills. There is so much better software out there that also isn't as expensive as the useless Norton 360.
    anonymous
  • Norton 360

    I used to be a Norton buff in the days of Norton Commander with DOS but after Vista and Norton 360 I have lost faith. Installed 360 and then It worked o.k for a week after which live update would not work so I went the technical support online chat. Spoke to Varun who told me to uninstall using the Norton Tool then remove registry keys relating to Symantec. Use Explore and remove all folders relating to Norton, Symantec and Liveupdate. Did all that, rebooted and re-installed. Half way through an error occured and asked me to reboot again. When I did my dvd drive was not recognised. Checked device manager and found that there was an ! in a yellow triangle. The usual thing happened when I tried to reinstall the driver, it reported it as o.k. The code was 39 so I googled that and found a registry fix which worked. Next I re-installed again to get another error code 9999.171. went back to "Chat" and the guy told me to update the Windows installer patches. Downloaded and installed all patches and reinstalled again to get the same error. Went back to chat and it would not work with Firefox and told me to use Explorer. Did that and explorer came up with an error and had to close. So now I cant access the online chat to resolve anything. I have given up and downloaded the free AVG virus protection which works just fine.
    anonymous
  • Norton 360

    I had exactly the same experience. After 9 days of contact with Norton technicians trying to reinstall Norton 560 on my computer, it became so corrupt, that I had to reformat my hard drive and start from scratch.
    anonymous
  • frustrated

    I bought this product w/i the last five days. Installed it and liveupdate wasn't working. Contacted support, let him fix it by taking control of my computer, he said reboot and all will be fine. I rebooted and no, liveupdate still does not work and now it's telling me I need to uninstall and reinstall. I do so. Liveupdate still does not work. So i try to contact support again and now it says there's a problem with support stub and we will have to close. we apologize.. blah blah blah. so now I can't even contact support for their help. i'm not a computer guru so I'm at a loss as to what to do. $60 down the drain, I suppose.
    anonymous
  • Norton 360 - I'm doing a 360 finding somewhere to turn!

    I have recently purchased Norton 360, (paid real money too) only to go from a functioning error free PC to a PC that now has the following occurrences frequently:

    Constant memory addressing errors
    Norton 360 shutting down
    Real Player no longer works
    MPG files no longer work
    Applications refuse to start

    In good faith I thought I would give the benefit of the doubt and load it on my laptop..yes, I hear you all scream, You did what! and guess what, The same problems occurred. What a piece of *&^%
    anonymous
  • norton 360

    Same problem here, Liveupdate does not work.Support stub needs to close! You're right $60.00 down the tube
    anonymous
  • Norton 360....Total disaster!

    I have been using Norton Anti-virus for years. All was fine, except for the high price.

    I upgraded to Norton 360 and my system was destroyed! The install went smoothly, and then I made the mistake of running it! All software that had not been preloaded in my computer was GONE. Much data was also GONE. Most was backed up, but not yesterday. Nothing was moved to the Recycle Bin. Nothing was renamed and tucked away somewhere. I received no queries, warning, etc.

    Support suggested a System Restore. XP says it can't do one. Support now agrees that the only solution is to reformat my hard drive and reload everything. This is 3 years worth of software and data. Symantec says the problem is closed. Ha! I have many hours ahead of me rebuilding this whole thing from scratch.

    All programs I installed myself were put in folder C:|My Programs, not C:\Program Files. I didn't think this was a crime. Some of these programs put their data in their own sub-folders. Apparently Norton 360 saw a lot of executables and just trashed C:\My Programs.

    What is it going to do to your computer???
    anonymous