The second iteration of Symantec's Norton-branded internet security suite for Android tablets and smartphones, Norton Mobile Security 2.5 claims to protect both your mobile device and your personal information. It's the latter claim that makes it an interesting product.
Norton Mobile Security 2.5 offers protection in three key areas: Anti-Malware, Web Protection and Anti-Theft. All three options are set out on the app's home screen, making it easy to set up and use. Somewhat confusingly, you first download and install the 'Lite' version of the software, and must buy an annual subscription elsewhere and upload your product key to enjoy the full product.
It's debatable how much you require traditional antivirus on a smartphone or tablet, and at this stage almost impossible to see how effective NMS is. By Symantec's own admission there are only 268 live threats in the Android ecosystem, compared to the literally millions of pieces of malware in the Windows PC world. Nonetheless, Android is a relatively open system and 268 is enough in a world were just one infection could ruin your most important device. And a full scan took less than 2 seconds on our tablet, so why not?
Symantec is - predictably - predicting a huge increase in mobile malware over the next year. As well it might with a mobile security product to push. But where there's muck there's brass, and where people are making transactions or storing valuable information, thieves will soon be lurking. Search in the Android Market for a term such as 'video player' or 'free movies' and you'll soon get the sense that there are nefarious forces at work. So while anti-malware may not be absolutely crucial at this stage, it will become a necessity in time, and Norton has a pretty good track record at battling viruses and spyware. (Indeed, the principle benefit of having Norton anti-malware is that your device's experiences will help to educate the Norton database as to what is malware, and what is simply a shoddy app, via Norton Community Watch. All Symantec subscribers will eventually benefit from this.)
The second feature, Web Protection, blocks in the Android browser what Symantec describes as 'fraudulent sites that could steal your personal information as you surf the web'. As with all such tools you won't often notice it. When we deliberately surfed up some dark alleys (and if Mrs Matt asks, that's *definitely* what I was doing), we were informed that certain sites were blocked, and given the opportunity to continue to them if we so desired. In a couple of days of pretty hefty surfing, we didn't come across anything we'd describe as a false positive.
See also: Best Android Apps
So far so traditional security product. What's interesting and really valuable about Norton Mobile Security is Norton Anti-Theft - which, confusingly, you have to download and install as an additional plug-in after you've installed Mobile Security.
Norton Anti-Theft offers the ability to lock down and track a missing Android smartphone or Android tablet. As with the previous version of Norton Mobile Security, you can send an SMS to an enabled device in order to lock it, locate it, and - if necessary - wipe the handset clean. The new version adds the 'Scream command'. This enables users to remotely make their smartphone emit a loud scream, even if it is on silent. This could be useful if your phone has only recently been stolen and may still be in the vicinity. It could also be described as a bit of a gimmick, but it would be satisfying to know that the person who nicked your tablet has to listent to it scream until the battery runs down. After you've wiped and locked it, of course.
Crucially for tablet users, Norton Mobile Security also now has a web-based antitheft feature. Using the antitheft.norton.com website, and a secure login, you can find your lost device via its GPS capability, display a tailor-made message on it ('Oi! Get off my tablet!), or even take a photo of the thief who is using it. As long as your phone or smartphone has any kind of web connection, its location will be tracked every hour. And once you've reported it missing, that jumps to every 10 minutes and your device is automatically locked.
As many of us now access corporate email, buy products and engage in banking via smartphones and tablets, it is the ability to lock down, wipe and locate your device that makes Norton Mobile Security compelling. And remember - even a phone used only for calling, personal email and social networking contains more information about you than you should like to see in the wrong hands.
We tested Norton Anti-Theft and found it worked well, correctly and accurately locating our device and tracking it's movements throughout the preceding day (and taking a picture of this dreadful tablet thief):
Look at this thief, typing up a review, little realising that his shiny round face is captured on camera
You can download photos in order to send them on to the police, and the person on the other end has no idea it is happening.
We installed Norton Mobile Security on our Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. Symantec is in the process of launching a standalone tablet product, but it wasn't available at the time of writing. No matter, Mobile Security works perfectly fine on a tablet, it just looks a little odd. And the only significant difference between Mobile Security and Tablet Security is that you can't lock the latter via SMS. so by all means use Mobile Security on a tablet.
Norton Mobile Security 2.5: Specs
- Android 2.x or later
- 1.8MB hard drive space
- Android 2.x or later
- 1.8MB hard drive space
It's virtually impossible to compare one mobile security product against another in terms of the efficacy of their malware finding and destroying capabilities. But you are the weakest link in your mobile security setup, and the ability to lock, wipe and locate your smartphone or tablet could make Norton Mobile Security a lifesaver in time. It's easy to use, and well priced - although there are free options out there.