Norton Internet Security 2003

  • Editors' rating
    7.8 Very good
  • $69.95

Pros

  • Intrusion detection sniffs out Nimda-like worms and shuts down your Net connection
  • improved interface is easier to use
  • includes Norton AntiVirus.

Cons

  • Basic support is limited to online knowledge base.

Keeping your PC safe from hackers and virus-writing cranks is simple with Norton Internet Security 2003 (NIS 2003). The software isn't free; so, if money's tight, the no-cost version of ZoneAlarm 3.0 remains your best bet. If you're willing to spend a few pounds, however, NIS 2003 will make it worth your while. Now with intelligent intrusion detection that sniffs out suspect data transmissions (the sneaky hack popularised by Nimda and Code Red), NIS 2003 protects you from backdoor break-ins. It has also added several other security and privacy tools, which let you, for instance, map the locale of hack attacks and stop pop-up ads. For £42.54 (ex. VAT; £49.98 inc. VAT), this firewall/virus-killer combo is the best deal around.

Are you intimidated by firewalls because they're too technical? NIS 2003 holds you by the hand from installation -- a five-minute process that includes one reboot -- to final configuration. Give most of the credit to the Security Assistant wizard, which asks straightforward questions to customise your protection.

On the NIS 2003 interface, the Status display's new green and red indicators tell you at a glance which options are active and which may need attention -- very nice. Among other interface enhancements and additions, we like the new Block Traffic button the best. Borrowed from ZoneAlarm Pro, this one-click button shuts down all Internet traffic, in and out, for those times when you want extra security. There's also a new Security Monitor, a smaller window that keeps all of NIS 2003's main features on the desktop.

The heart of NIS 2003 remains Norton Personal Firewall -- also available separately for £39.98 or £24.99 (inc. VAT) as an upgrade. Personal Firewall blocks malicious hack attacks while letting applications that you trust (and so designate) connect to the Internet. As before, it's simple to tell NIS 2003 which applications can connect. During installation the program automatically scans your drive for Internet-able programs, such as browsers, instant messengers, and emailers, and it automatically configures itself to allow those applications through the firewall. You can schedule these scans manually, as well.

What's more, the familiar Norton Alert Tracker pop-up still warns you if someone is trying to break into your PC. It immediately reports both unauthorised attempts by applications to access the Internet and illicit port scans. In case of an unavoidable attack, NIS 2003's new Alert Assistant provides more information about any suspicious activity, including whether the program that's attempting to connect contains a digital signature, which means that it's probably trustworthy. NIS's new Visual Tracker not only traces threats to their origin, it also graphically maps their IP addresses.

A personal firewall may be its backbone, but NIS 2003 also includes the full version of Norton AntiVirus 2003, as well as tools that block pop-ups, pop-unders, banner ads, unwanted cookies, JavaScripts, ActiveX Controls and even outgoing personal information, such as your credit card number. Supposedly, the new anti-spam tool, Norton Spam Alert, stops a significant amount of spam, but we couldn't test it thoroughly during the review period, so we must take Symantec's word for it.

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Far be it from NIS to rest on its laurels. Year after year, this utility suite continues to beef up its security intelligence. Last year, NIS debuted a feature that kept rogue programs from masquerading as trusted applications. The 2003 version not only auto-blocks port scanners, which it has always done, but it also scans each packet of data that leaves or enters your PC. If these scans spot suspicious data exchanges, which it finds by comparing them to a frequently updated database, NIS 2003 automatically severs the link to the offending computer. Using this technique, NIS can detect advanced worms, such as Nimda and Code Red.

As before, NIS 2003's Personal Firewall passed all of our probing tests with an A grade. In our ShieldsUp and Port Scanner tests, NIS successfully blocked every attempt to gain entry to our test PC, and it cloaked every port on our test PCs with such stealth that hackers wouldn't even know that those systems existed.

As far as support is concerned, the easy-to-navigate help file links to Symantec’s Web site, allowing you to click through a series of forms to find a solution to common problems. If you need phone support, you’ll have to sign up for one of Symantec’s support programs.

The software is reasonably priced. Although NIS 2003's list price is £49.98 (inc. VAT), the upgrade price is only £29.99 (inc. VAT). For the money, you can't beat NIS 2003. With its improved interface, added features, and -- most importantly -- its intrusion detection, NIS 2003 is excellent value.

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
Min RAM Size 128 MB
Min Hard Drive Space 60 MB
OS Required Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional, Microsoft Windows 98, Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition, Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition, Microsoft Windows XP Professional
OS Family Windows
Additional Requirements CD-ROM
Min Processor Speed 300 MHz
Min Processor Type Pentium II
Header
Brand Symantec
Product Line Norton Internet Security
Model 2003
Packaged Quantity 1
Compatibility PC
System Requirements Details
Min Operating System Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional, Microsoft Windows 98/ME, Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition, Microsoft Windows XP Professional
Min RAM Size 128 MB, 48 MB, 64 MB
Min Hard Drive Space 60 MB

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