Symantec upgrades consumer desktop products

Symantec this week unveiled the 2007 editions of its consumer Norton AntiVirus and Internet Security desktop products, plus a third new offering called Norton Confidential that protects e-commerce transactions.

Symantec often adds features to its consumer security software, which is sometimes purchased by small businesses, and includes those features in the enterprise editions that can be remotely managed. In Norton AntiVirus 2007, the consumer anti-virus and anti-spyware product, a rootkit detection and eradication capability has been added that will likely become part of enterprise products.

Group product manager Craig Lane said Symantec has developed a methodology for scanning at the kernel level where rootkits attempt to lodge to detect and eradicate them. In addition, Norton AntiVirus 2007 will have a so-called "zero-hour protection" capability that will be updated whenever a vulnerability is identified for the Windows desktop.

While not intended to replace software patching, Symantec says this "zero-hour protection" is designed to block exploits that might occur before the patch process is completed.

The second upgraded product, Norton Internet Security 2007, will also adopt this rootkit-scanning technique as well as provide additional defenses, including desktop firewall and anti-phishing protections. Norton Internet Security includes everything in Norton AntiVirus plus an additional firewall. Both 2007 editions run on Windows XP with support for Microsoft Vista being added when it ships.

One change this year is in the desktop firewall. Symantec has determined that consumers are having a hard time configuring the firewalls based on prompts, so Norton Internet Security 2007 will set the firewall's parameters based on its own analysis of how desktop software attempts to communicate with the Internet.

Norton Internet Security will also have a new "security history" feature to display the actions the software took, or even undo them if desired.

While Norton AntiVirus and Norton Internet Security are available beginning tomorrow, there are other consumer products envisioned for the future.

The third Windows XP-based based desktop product Symantec announced today, Norton Confidential, is a brand-new entry that was developed to protect consumers during e-commerce transactions.

Also XP-based software, Norton Confidential will block consumers from visiting known or suspected phishing sites. Norton Confidential can also scan a Web site and block any known "crimeware" from trying to compromise the user's desktop.

While it does some target malware eradication, Norton Confidential does not contain the full antivirus/antispyware eradication capability of Norton AntiVirus. "Norton Confidential is intended to be complementary to Norton AntiVirus," says Bill Rosenkrantz, director of product management.

The purpose of Norton Confidential is to protect the transactions of Web users and provide assurance the Web site is genuine, not a phishing site.

"We keep score on nearly 120 different things on that Web site," Rosenkrantz says, noting the capability is based on the e-commerce protection technology gained through the acquisition of security start-up WholeSecurity.

One way Norton Confidential verifies the legitimacy of a genuine Web site is through presenting the user with the so-called "Norton Authentication Trust Mark" on the toolbar. The small mark indicates that the Web site was checked through a method of "fingerprinting" the SSL certificate with the site's pages.

Norton Confidential also contains a password security storage feature as an option for the user to encrypt the password on the desktop. Norton Confidential is expected to ship the first week of next month. Symantec said it is likely to integrate the capabilities of all three products into a single one called Norton 360.

Norton AntiVirus 2007 costs US$40, Norton Internet Security and Norton Confidential cost US$50, with discounts applying to the latter for volumes of three an up.

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Ellen Messmer

Network World

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