Norton Internet Security 2000

The bundling of Norton AntiVirus 2000 and AtGuard (both AtGuard and Norton AntiVirus were winners in the 1999 PC World Awards) offers the home user a much higher level of protection against hackers and viruses. As a bonus, Internet Security has retained many of AtGuard's Internet utilities, so you also get a program that strips out banner ads, manages cookies, conceals your Web browsing habits and offers content filtering software. All this costs little more than buying a stand-alone anti-virus program, and is exceptional value.

Hackers are beginning to show up more frequently as people remain connected to the Internet for longer periods. Norton Internet Security's firewall provides a good defensive measure against these attacks. In addition to the firewall, it blocks activity through some favourite hacking ports - including the default setting used by the infamous Back Orifice. By enabling certain rules, you can also see when other programs are trying to run in the background while you are on the Internet. Other security features include protection from various types of ActiveX and JavaScript (handy for killing pop-up ads).

On the privacy front, Norton Internet Security can manage cookies so you can find the balance between using cookies to make your life easier on the Internet and sites trying to track your movements. It also has the ability to warn you if you are going to be transmitting confidential information to an unsecured site.

The banner stripping program can change your whole Internet experience - pages load faster, there are no blinking ads to distract you from the text you are trying to read, and if you pay for your Internet connection per MB downloaded, then it can also save money.

There are many levels of customisation across all the security categories, so you can set your own levels. High settings in all categories can be inefficient, as you are constantly bombarded by unnecessary security warnings; this practice is not recommended, but it can come in handy if you are visiting suspicious sites.

Norton Internet Security is the first real test of the Snap On technology that Symantec started flogging with SystemWorks - allowing the installation of programs to be easily managed through one central panel - and it works a treat. You can easily add either Norton AntiVirus (60MB) or the Internet Security programs (4MB), which, despite being a recent addition to the stable, seems to fit in with no hassle. Also, Internet Security allows accounts to be set up: this will enable different users to easily access their own settings, which is particularly important for the content controller - if you choose to use it.

The content controller highlights the problems of relying on a piece of software to restrict access to sites, for even with the ability to add or remove specific sites, the program tended to be conservative and a little judgemental. Plus, when asked to block all sex-related material it happily let me in to Salon where they were discussing the rise of the Bondage Bed & Breakfast, or to the group representing sex workers (Eros) at www.eros.com.au. The feature that blocks certain applications is quite ridiculous - applying blanket rules can greatly restrict the usefulness of having a PC in the first place. Some other quirks include inconvenient startup options: you can either choose it to start up when Windows boots or to open the program manually. As it is a network/Internet-based product, it would have been smarter to give the choice of starting the program automatically when connecting to the Internet, for when your PC is offline, Internet Security is doing little more than just sucking resources. And not everyone will remember to turn it on when online.

One big oversight with Norton Internet Security is the lack of an encryption tool such as Pretty Good Privacy. It's all well and good sitting behind a firewall, but as soon as your details leave your computer, then they can be easily viewed by prying eyes. As more Imps (impostors) start to appear, digitally signing documents with an encryption tool will become more important.

Despite these shortcomings, Norton Internet Security can help tackle a host of issues affecting the privacy and security of home Internet users.

Norton Internet Security 2000

Price: $54

Distributor: Symantec

Phone: (02) 8879 1000

URL: www.symantec.com.au

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