'

Norton Internet Security 2002

norton-is-2002-thumb.gif
  • Editors' rating
    7.8 Very good
  • $69.95

Pros

  • Simple setup
  • effectively hides your PC from hackers
  • automatically protects you against intruder attack.

Cons

  • Pricey compared to firewall-only competitors
  • doesn't work with Windows 95
  • makes you recreate custom firewall rules when you upgrade.

It's easy to make your PC invulnerable to hackers and virus-writers -- all you need to do is spend some money. Norton Internet Security 2002 (NIS 2002) is excellent but relatively expensive. This fully loaded suite combines a firewall with best-of-breed utility Norton AntiVirus to keep your PC secure. If you're still surfing the Web without protection, this combo is a good deal: at £49.43 (inc. VAT), it costs just £16 more than AntiVirus 2002 on its own. But if you're looking to save some money, get the free ZoneAlarm firewall instead.

Like earlier editions, NIS 2002 configures itself nearly automatically. Just load up the CD, install and reboot. Then use the nifty Security Assistant wizard to customise your level of protection -- although the preconfigured settings are sufficient to protect PCs in most situations -- simply by clicking links or answering yes/no questions.

We ran into one major glitch, though, as we upgraded from NIS 2001 to 2002. Our customised settings, including those we used to connect via a satellite service to the Internet, didn't make the trip. We had to manually recreate them in 2002 -- a tedious chore that involved entering IP addresses of sites and computers we either needed to permanently block or to allow access to our PC.

Since it bundles a ton of tools under one roof, NIS 2002 is, strictly speaking, a suite, but its core component is Norton Personal Firewall (also available separately for £29.65 inc. VAT). Personal Firewall does the heavy lifting: it blocks incoming hack attacks yet lets applications you trust connect to the Internet. It's simple to configure applications you deem trustworthy. NIS 2002 scans your drive for Internet-connected programs such as browsers, instant messengers and emailers immediately after installation (you can also rescan anytime later) and automatically configures those that you deem acceptable.

NIS 2002 relies on Norton Alert Tracker (as did NIS 2001) to warn you if someone is trying to break into your PC. This pop-up, which sits at the edge of the main window, reports unauthorised attempts by applications to access the Internet (that's how Trojan horses gain control of your computer) and of illicit port scanning (another way hackers find your machine). You'll definitely know if someone tries to break in.

If you have Norton SystemWorks, you'll be pleased to find that it's integrated nicely with NIS 2002, so all your tools are tucked under one interface. But if you don't have SystemWorks, you won't necessarily miss it: NIS 2002 sports the same design as that suite. Just like SystemWorks, NIS 2002 displays its sections, such as Current Status or Intrusion Protection, on the left. Click an option, and the tools, settings, or status appear on the right-hand side of the window.

Top ZDNET Reviews

NIS 2002 is more secure than previous incarnations. To ensure that a rogue program can't masquerade as a trustworthy application, such as Outlook Express, for example, NIS 2002 verifies programs against digital signatures from a database it installs and keeps current, courtesy of LiveUpdate, which checks the Symantec site for updated virus definitions every four hours. Trojan horses often use this technique to gain access to the Internet, then take control of your PC or send confidential info, such as passwords, to hackers. NIS is the first personal firewall to include such digital verification.

Personal Firewall passed all of our ShieldsUP probing tests with flying colours. Using these tools, we tested the most popular ports of our PC (ports 80, 110, and 130, for example), both before installing NIS and after, looking for a way into the computer, as would a hacker. NIS blocked every attempt to gain entry, and Personal Firewall wrapped every port on our test PCs in a cloak of invisibility.

Although Personal Firewall is NIS 2002's main attraction, it's not the only one. NIS 2002 includes Norton AntiVirus 2002, our preferred virus sniffer/killer. Firewalls and anti-virus applications complement each other: the first keeps bad things at bay, the second eradicates the few that slip through. NIS 2002's mix is just right.

NIS also features tools that block Web banner ads (though it can't stop pop-up or pop-under ads), unwanted cookies, JavaScripts and ActiveX Controls -- or even outgoing personal information, such as your Social Security number. If your Social Security number is sent through a Web site, or if you try to send it in an instant message using AOL Instant Messenger, MSN Messenger, or the new Windows Messenger in XP, NIS 2002 alerts you.

NIS 2002 includes a wizard that greatly simplifies setting up a firewall to protect multiple PCs sharing one Internet connection. It automatically identifies all machines on the network and configures the gateway that is actually connected to the Internet. Last year's NIS made you do this manually, but 2002's wizard does the bulk of the work, which is nice.

Not everything about NIS 2002 is excellent, though. This version doesn't support Windows 95, and while it's much more sophisticated and flexible than Windows XP's built-in firewall, our testing revealed that XP's firewall hides a PC's ports from hackers just as well as NIS.

We like the top-to-bottom security that NIS 2002 provides, and we're equally impressed by the straightforward, user-friendly setup. But in economic times as tough as these, £49.43 (inc. VAT) may be too high a price. The bottom line? Unless you're in the market for a firewall/anti-virus combo, download the free ZoneAlarm firewall instead.

Specifications

General
Packaged Quantity 1
Category security applications
Subcategory security - security suite
Package Type retail
Distribution Media CD-ROM
Software
Subcategory security - security suite
Category security applications
License Type box pack
License Category shrinkwrap
System Requirements
OS Required Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional, Microsoft Windows 95, Microsoft Windows 98, Microsoft Windows 98 Second Edition, Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition, Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 SP4 or later
OS Family Windows
Additional Requirements CD-ROM
Header
Brand Symantec
Product Line Norton Internet Security
Model 2002
Packaged Quantity 1
Compatibility PC

Top ZDNET Reviews