The strong Symantec Norton Internet Security 2009 suite may cost a little more than some competitors, but it’s easy to use and good at blocking malicious software. Updated, 16 June 2009.

Symantec Norton Internet Security 2009 is a winner. It pairs excellent malware detection and cleanup with a smooth, intuitive interface and a good range of features. Norton wasn’t tops in every category we tested, but if you want a solid product to protect your PC, Norton Internet Security is a great option.

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In AV-Test’s extensive malware-detection tests, Symantec Norton Internet Security 2009 did very well, identifying 97.8 percent of the 722,372 collected samples of Trojan horses, worms, password-stealers, adware, and other nasties (98.3 percent excluding adware). This represents a slight decrease from our previous test results, where Norton caught 98.7 percent of ‘zoo’ samples (98.8 percent excluding adware). Even so, Symantec Norton Internet Security 2009 still came third overall behind G-Data InternetSecurity 2010, which tagged 99.8 percent of ‘zoo’ samples and BitDefender Internet Security 2009 which achieved a 98.9 percent detection rate.

Symantec Norton Internet Security 2009 again took top honours in cleaning up malware infections, although it wasn’t perfect. It got rid of 85 percent of the files and Registry changes that malware had put in place, but it failed to scrub all the files from two out of 10 test infections. It produced similarly strong numbers for detecting and removing rootkits. It successfully removed nine out of nine active rootkits.

In dealing with adware, Symantec Norton Internet Security 2009 was on the low end with its 85.6 percent detection rate for this aggravating, albeit usually harmless, software. The top performers, by contrast, identified more than 98 percent of the adware in our testing. On the other hand, it was the only product that didn’t produce a single false positive by misidentifying safe software as harmful.

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Symantec Norton Internet Security 2009 was below average at identifying unknown malware for which it doesn’t yet have a signature. In tests with two-week-old signature files, it identified only 44.6 percent of samples (compared to 48.2 percent in previous testing). This put it third, well behind G Data, which detected a bit more than 56 percent of the samples.

However, Symantec Norton Internet Security 2009’s new ‘pulse’ update feature, which sends out malware signatures to the program every 5 to 15 minutes, could help offset that lacklustre proactive performance. Symantec responds very quickly to new widespread malware attacks, typically in less than 2 hours, according to AV-Test.

Another new feature, Norton Insight, uses internet-based elements to identify trusted applications that don’t need to be scanned, which Symantec says can help improve scanning speed. The suite did prove the fastest of the group at scheduled or manual on-demand scans that survey entire files, but it was only the sixth fastest at the more-important on-access checks that occur every time your PC opens or accesses a file.

Symantec Norton Internet Security 2009’s anti-spam feature adds a toolbar to Outlook and Outlook Express, and its firewall will automatically allow known, trusted applications to access the internet. And its wireless security feature correctly warned us about a test network that used no encryption.

To use the parental controls and privacy features, you must download and install a free add-on pack from Symantec. Afterward you’ll be able to assign access profiles such as ‘Child’, ‘Teen’, or ‘Unrestricted’ to existing Windows user accounts, or define certain types of information, such as credit card numbers, that you don’t want sent from your PC without your authorisation.

While Symantec Norton Internet Security 2009’s default settings and interface were largely correct and well done in our testing, its anti-phishing proved a notable exception: The feature turned off Firefox’s built-in anti-phishing protection without any notification, a move that Symantec says is to prevent potential duplicative alerts.

Other suites had no problems leaving Firefox’s feature on in addition to their own, however, and doing so means you have two opportunities to catch and block a phishing site instead of just one.

Regrettably, the Symantec Norton Internet Security 2009 suite lacks a backup capability, and it can’t scan for missing applications or Windows patches a function that’s fairly common among its competitors.

NEXT PAGE: our most recent review of Symantec Norton Internet Security, from March 2009

PAGE 5: OUR EXPERT VERDICT >>

Our current Best Buy internet security suite, Symantec Norton Internet Security 2009 offers extremely good detection rates via and excellent interface. [UPDATED, MARCH 18 2009.]

Symantec Norton Internet Security 2009 came in as the clear winner in our tests. It wasn’t top in every category, and it’s pricey. But if you’re seeking a solid product to protect your PC, this is a first-class option.

Symantec Norton Internet Security 2009 did well in AV-Test’s malware-detection tests with a score of 98.9 percent, and took top honours in malware removal. It was similarly adept at rootkit protection. Adware detection was merely average but, importantly, didn’t produce any false positives.

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The new Norton Insight feature uses internet elements to identify trusted apps, which Symantec says can help scan speed. Our tests found Symantec Norton Internet Security 2009 was the fastest on the market at on-demand scans, but only sixth-fastest at the more important on-access checks.

Symantec Norton Internet Security 2009's antispam feature adds a toolbar to Outlook and Outlook Express, and the firewall will automatically allow trusted apps to access the web. A wireless feature warns about unsafe networks.

Notable omissions? Symantec Norton Internet Security 2009 lacks a backup capability and it can’t scan for missing application or Windows patches.

NEXT PAGE: our original review from September 2008

PAGE 4: pictures of Symantec Norton Internet Security 2009

PAGE 5: OUR EXPERT VERDICT >>

Not only does Norton Internet Security 2009 - Symantec's latest internet security suite - install in about a minute but its CPU and memory usage are down.

For some time now, Norton security products have been saddled, not unfairly, with the reputation of being hardware resource hogs, slowing down every PC they're installed on. The situation was exacerbated further by the arrival of Vista. But no more. The release of Norton Internet Security 2009 consigns that reputation to the Windows Recycle Bin.

Some performance improvements started to appear in the 2008 range but it's taken another year for the main developments to fully materialise. Not only does the new NIS 2009 install in about a minute but its CPU and memory usage are down.

Both scan speeds and boot times are significantly reduced. Even updates are shorter (but much more frequent, as often as every five minutes). And to drive the point home, the main interface displays a pair of CPU meters, one for the system as a whole and one just for Norton Internet Security 2009.

Norton Internet Security 2009 sports a glossier user interface (UI), with users having to contend with three categories - Computer, Internet and Identity. Tech support is now free and has been beefed up. You also get the new Home Network view, which gives users a network device map from which those devices can also be managed, highlighting security ‘danger zones'.

Also new in NIS 2009 is Identity Safe, to store personal information that is typically entered in buying, banking and online gaming.

Norton Internet Security 2009 reflects a wholesale shift in the way security is handled, shifting from a blacklist-based detection system, to one based on a whitelist, here dubbed Norton Insight. This means it can ignore whole swathes of files, which cuts scan times at a stroke. Scans are carried out in the background during idle time and scheduled scans become almost redundant.

Norton Insight judges the files as safe because it uses data collected from millions of ‘Norton Community' members, in much the same manner as Panda Internet Security 2009 and IHateSpam. Based on this data, Insight lets Norton Internet Security 2009 avoid scanning files that are found on most computers and statistically determined to be trusted.

In terms of detecting malware, according to a recent AV-Test.org group test, NIS 2009 is a top-tier security product, garnering scores of 98.7 percent for malware and 95.4 percent for spyware. Nevertheless, it's still pipped at the post by the likes of Avira and Avast! which managed even higher scores. Anti-spam is integrated now and works with Outlook and Outlook Express (but not Windows Mail). We let it loose on one of our email accounts that accumulates virtually nothing but spam. Out of about 5,000 emails, with no prior training, it correctly determined that 89 percent were junk. This is not a bad score but it still left over 500 junk emails in the inbox and it was slow; other anti-spam tools offer superior performance.

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Not only does Norton Internet Security 2009 - Symantec's latest internet security suite - install in about a minute but its CPU and memory usage are down.

NIS 2009

NIS 2009

NIS 2009

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Symantec Norton Internet Security 2009: Specs

  • Windows XP with SP2, Windows Vista, 300MHz or faster processor, 256MB RAM, 200MB of available hard disk space, CD-ROM or DVD drive, Outlook 97 or higher, Outlook Express 6.0 or higher, AIM Yahoo IM, MSN Messenger, Trillian, Internet Explorer 6.0 (32-bit only) or later, Firefox 2.0 or later
  • Windows XP with SP2, Windows Vista, 300MHz or faster processor, 256MB RAM, 200MB of available hard disk space, CD-ROM or DVD drive, Outlook 97 or higher, Outlook Express 6.0 or higher, AIM Yahoo IM, MSN Messenger, Trillian, Internet Explorer 6.0 (32-bit only) or later, Firefox 2.0 or later

OUR VERDICT

Symantec Norton Internet Security 2009 is a strong, well-balanced security suite and its upgrades this year make it even better. Users angling for the absolute best malware detection, or people who need backup functions in their suite, might find a better fit elsewhere. But for most shoppers, Norton is a solid choice.

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