An all-around solid defender and efficient performer, Symantec's Norton Internet Security 2012 (£49 for one year and three PCs as of February 3, 2012) comes in second in our 2012 security suites roundup on the strength of its slick, user-friendly interface and its solid malware detection and removal capabilities. See also: Group test: what's the best security software?

The Norton suite fully blocked all attacks in ourreal-world tests, which indicate how well security software will protect you against brand-new threats. It also detected 99.94 percent of known malware samples, the fourth-best result among the 14 products we looked at (the top package, G Data InternetSecurity 2012, achieved a detection rate of greater than 99.99 percent). In addition, the Norton software detected and deactivated all active malware components in our cleanup tests, and removed all remnants of malware half the time (which is about average). The Norton suite flagged nine known safe files out of 250,000 as being potentially dangerous; that’s quite a low false-positive rate percentage-wise, but it’s higher than average for the suites we tested. Visit: Security Advisor

Symantec Norton Internet Security 2012In recent years Norton has claimed that its products won't slow down PCs, and for the most part that holds true in 2012. This year's edition added about 3.7 seconds to startup time compared to our test PC with no antivirus software installed, and added about 3.5 seconds to shutdown time. In both cases the Norton package performed somewhat better than average for the suites we tested. We saw the same kind of results in other performance tests, too, as the Norton suite had a lower-than-average impact on overall PC performance across the board.

The Norton package completed our scan tests quickly: It finished an on-demand scan (that is, one that occurs when you click the Scan button manually) of 4.5GB of data in 1 minute, 8 seconds--the second-fastest result in the test group. The on-access scanner (which fires up when you open or save files) completed scanning 4.5GB of files in 2 minutes, 34 seconds; again, that was the second-fastest time among the products we looked at.

We like Norton’s interface, too: It’s clean and well designed, and it installs with a click. Although it isn't the dead-simplest interface we've seen, the main panel is straightforward with a clear status indicator and links to common features. That said, while Norton's settings panel gives advanced users plenty of options to toggle, it may be a bit much for beginners. Still, in the end, Norton should be friendly enough for most people.

Even though G Data's suite edged out the Norton one overall in our roundup this year, Norton Internet Security 2012 is a very good option, and is easily worth your consideration.

>> Review from 06/12/2011 on next page >>

Review from 06/12/2011

By Simon Williams

Norton AntiVirus, if not the first, was one of the very early anti-malware products and, as a core part of Symantec's software portfolio, Norton Internet Security is still one of the leading applications in the Internet Security Suites field.

Norton Internet Security 2012 offers anti-virus, identity protection, parental control and system rescue. There's a software firewall and spam and phishing prevention, too. Installation is reasonably painless, though it wouldn't proceed until we'd uninstalled Iolo's System Mechanic, so if you value that maintenance software (other utilities we weren't running might also prove incompatible), you'll need to look outside of Norton Internet Security 2012 for your internet security.

The clash appears to be down to the SONAR 4 Behavioural Protection, which looks for suspicious behaviour by processes on you PC and, if it finds enough evidence, prevents those processes taking place. Other legitimate software which works behind the scenes can be confused with malicious programs, so is best not run alongside Norton Internet Security 2012 and the SONAR engine.

The main interface of Norton Internet Security 2012 has had an overhaul and continues to be very easy to use. The most popular options – Scan, LiveUpdate and Advanced settings – have been given more prominence and setting screens are mainly devoted to slide switches, which are very easy to work with.

See also: Group test: what's the best security software?

There's a useful performance display which shows CPU and memory usage by Norton and other processes and a timeline of threat detections and resolutions. This is the kind of feedback few other IS products offer, but it's a shame the Norton window can't be pushed up to full screen. Things like these graphs and the global malware activity map are little more than window dressing – the map is too small to identify specific places.

Another irritation is that scans aren't represented with a progress meter, so it's hard to tell how long they're likely to take. But our tests show Norton IS 2012 runs fast. The 50GB file scan took 27:08, but that was for 175,621 files, giving an average scan rate of 108 files per second. This is the fastest we've recorded on this test, though by default the program tested 10 times as many files as its rivals, which may be over-exhaustive.

Symantec claims Norton IS 2012 has a smaller footprint than before and this is born out by our copy tests. With the program running in the background, the 1GB copy took 50 secs, close to the other IS suites we've looked at recently. With a scan running, it took 1:15, pretty much in the middle of the times taken by its competitors.

AV-Test evaluated the latest engine and scored it 14.5/18; a very good score. Breaking that down, Norton scored 5.5/6 for protection, missing only 2 percent of all the malware thrown at it in two months, while it also scored well above the industry average at repairing infected systems, gaining 5/6.

It dropped to 4/6 in usability, mainly due to a few false positives. In comparison with Norton 360, you don't get backup and restore, nor PC tuneup, so you should consider whether you need those functions before saving around £10 by going for Norton Internet Security. Visit: Security Advisor

Verdict:

Norton Internet Security 2012 is probably the best known of all Internet Security products and Symantec has stood the test of time by constantly improving its product with useful extras, both in its core engine and in the way it reports what it has been up to. The latest version is commendably light on resources and does what it sets out to do quickly and efficiently.

Norton Internet Security 2012: Specs

  • Windows XP/Vista/7, 32/64 bit, 1GHz PC, 256MB RAM, 300MB HD
  • Windows XP/Vista/7, 32/64 bit, 1GHz PC, 256MB RAM, 300MB HD

OUR VERDICT

Symantec's Norton security suite will do a great job of keeping your PC safe, and the program is easy to use too.

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