Norton Antivirus Review

Norton AntiVirus has been around since 1991 and is one of the most well-known security brands. Norton AntiVirus Plus, the most recent iteration, is a comprehensive suite with a slew of high-end features, including antivirus and anti-ransomware, harmful URL filtering, an intelligent firewall, a password manager, speedup tools, and a simple cloud backup with 2GB of storage.

The program is available for both Mac and Windows, and a single device, one-year license costs $15 at first and $60 after that. That’s a good price for the features you get, but if you simply need the essentials, you can save money elsewhere.

Bitdefender Antivirus Plus, for example, doesn’t quite equal Norton’s feature set, but it can protect three devices for only $25 for the first year and $60 for renewal. Billing is also more flexible, and you can save money by upgrading your subscription to include more devices and years.

Norton AntiVirus Plus is limited to a single device and a single year. If AntiVirus Plus isn’t enough, the Norton 360 line adds more functions and covers up to five devices, including Android and iOS devices as well as Windows and Mac computers.

Norton 360 Deluxe gives you unlimited access to Norton Secure VPN (for up to five devices), safeguards your webcam from illegal access, and gives you 50GB of online backup space, up from 10GB last year. Parental restrictions keep your children secure online, while dark web monitoring alerts you if your email address is sold online.

Despite its increased capabilities, the suite is still only $35 for a one-year subscription and $105 for renewal. Even a value provider like Private Internet Access charges $40 for a one-year license, so it might be worth buying for the VPN alone, at least for the first year.

Upgrade to Norton 360 with LifeLock Select to get 100MB of backup space and a full identity theft protection service, which includes Dark Web surveillance, credit monitoring, real-time warnings, US-based identity theft restoration professionals, and a million-dollar insurance package for US users.

Norton 360 with LifeLock Select costs $99.48 for the first year and $150 for renewal. It’s a good deal, but you might be able to get a better deal elsewhere. McAfee Total Protection isn’t as powerful as Norton 360 Deluxe, but it does contain identity theft protection and costs $65 for the first year, rising to $160 if you renew.

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Setup

The installation of Norton AntiVirus Plus was simple. The software took up 1GB of disk space, which is standard for a suite of this caliber, and only added two big background processes to our machine. However, when we ran PCMark Professional before and after installation, we saw that our score had reduced by 4.8 percent.

Although this is better than the 5.9% decline we saw with Sophos Home Premium, most packages only show a 1-2 percent drop, and Avira and McAfee had almost no impact.

Norton fared a little better in AV-Comparatives’ October 2021 Performance Test, but it was still a mid-range 9th out of 17 in terms of its influence on system speed.

Malware frequently tries to deactivate antivirus software before starting a full attack, thus the finest antivirus software goes to great lengths to defend themselves.

We put this to the test by launching our own attacks, which included shutting down processes, deleting files, unloading drivers, and deactivating services. We were able to shut down the process that powered Norton’s user dashboard, but the package’s core files, services, and drivers were still fully secured, and our protection was still active.

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Antivirus

Norton Security Premium NSBU (10 device) 15 month | Acer Store

The UI of Norton AntiVirus Plus is unusual, as it is split into two windows. The majority of My Norton’s dashboard is taken up with a wallpaper image of someone trekking along a mountain trail, a couple of buttons to activate critical tools, and the rest is just white space.

There’s more capability and control available, but you have to open a separate Security window to get to it, and we found that navigating Norton’s many capabilities took longer than expected.

Antivirus, on the other hand, is relatively simple. Whatever interface you’re using, Smart Scans are just a click away. These perform a malware Quick Scan, identify network security issues, and check for what Norton refers to as ‘Advanced Issues’ (in practice this just gave us a list of tracking cookies to delete.)

If you require it, a separate Full System is available. Additionally, a fully customizable custom scan feature allows you a wide range of options.

The initial scan of 50GB of test data took 29 minutes, then dropped to 4:13 the second time, which is within the range we’d expect for this type of suite. Bitdefender’s initial scan took 50 minutes, but it only took 50 seconds the next time; Avira’s first scan took 26 minutes, but there’s no’s just new and altered files’-type optimization, thus it took the same 26 minutes each time.

This functions in the same way that Task Manager does, but with a security focus. The main window displays a list of currently running processes, each with a Trust rating, a count of how many other people use them, and other information. This has a lot of advantages for advanced users.

Even if you’ve been infected by a danger that Norton hasn’t yet detected, Insight may be able to identify a problem by identifying active operating processes or loaded modules that you don’t recognize or haven’t seen before. This is a really useful tool to have on your side if you have enough Windows skills to actively look for viruses.

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Protection

The Real-World Protection Test by AV-Comparatives is a comprehensive benchmark that compares 17 of the best antivirus engines against some of the most recent malware. In 2021, Norton’s scores ranged from 99.5 percent protection and 10th rank in February-May tests to 100 percent protection and third place in July-October tests. (It’s third instead of equal first because it had the most false positives of all of the contenders, at 37; seven of the AVs tested had none.)

In every test over the last year, AV-Windows Test’s 10 Home User reports have given Norton a maximum of six points for Protection, Usability, and Performance (December 2020 to October 2021.) Norton was ranked sixth out of nine in E-Labs’ Q3 2021 Home Anti-Malware Protection report, with a Total Accuracy Rating of 96 percent.

We conducted some modest experiments of our own, downloading dangerous files using ordinary Windows tools using malware-like techniques.

Most of our simulated attacks were blocked at the behavioral level, before the files could be downloaded, by Norton AntiVirus Plus. The file detection layer recognized and quarantined the file as soon as it hit our hard disk, even though it disregarded our exploit efforts several times.

Norton can’t have seen it before because it’s never been released, so this is a good test of its capacity to detect and fight ransomware based just on its behavior.

When we ran our test threat, Norton AntiVirus Plus detected and killed it, and then warned us about the problem a few seconds later. While this is positive, we discovered that our malware had encrypted 57 files before being stopped.

In prior experiments, we discovered that Bitdefender and Kaspersky both detected the threat after accessing a maximum of ten files. Even better, they were able to recover the originals, assuring that no data was lost.

Firewall

Norton AntiVirus Plus isn’t just about eradicating malware, as the name implies. It also comes with several handy add-ons. When untrusted programs try to connect to the internet, an intelligent firewall alerts you and asks if you want to let them.

While this could be inconvenient for the customer, we’ve only seen it happen in the most extreme cases, and we were provided plenty of information to help us make our decision.

Instead of the standard ‘dubious.exe is attempting to connect to the Internet, allow? Yes, No>’ warnings, the firewall informed us that our test application was not digitally signed, had only been released a week before, and had very few users, as well as displaying the URL it was attempting to connect to.

You can allow or block the connection with a few clicks, and you can choose to have the firewall remember your choice so you won’t be asked again.

Backup

The integrated backup tool in Norton AntiVirus Plus is a pleasant surprise. Backup is available from Kaspersky, but only to local disks and only as part of the company’s high-end Total Security suite. In AntiVirus Plus, Norton’s backup is a hosted service that includes 2GB of online backup space (it supports local destinations, too.)

The app is very lacking in features. If you’re looking for control over archiving, encryption, or versioning, this isn’t the place to be. However, we have no issues with the convenience of use.

The program backs up your Office documents, photos, music, contacts, internet favorites, and other items by default. You can back up your data to the web in a single click if it’s less than 2GB; if it’s larger, you can exclude individual files, folders, or entire files, or use a local drive as the destination instead.

Backups can be conducted on-demand or scheduled to run on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, with a ‘Run only during the idle time’ option to ensure it doesn’t interfere with your work. There’s not a lot of power here, and considering Google Drive offers 15GB of free storage, Norton’s 2GB doesn’t feel particularly generous. However, it’s 2GB more than most antivirus products offer.

When you upgrade, you gain greater storage, such as 50GB with Norton 360 Deluxe. The option to create a genuinely usable online backup in seconds is also helpful, especially for non-technical users, and the service adds some value to the bundle.

Performance

Norton Antivirus Plus comes with several easy-to-use maintenance features that will help your computer run faster. Optimize Disk is a disk defragmentation program that reorganizes the way files are stored on your hard drive in the hopes of improving performance.

At least, that’s the theory: with modern SSD drives, the technology doesn’t make much of a difference. Optimize Disk appeared to be using the regular Windows defrag tool underneath when we tested it on our test PC.

One of the weakest junk file finders we’ve seen is File Cleanup. Run the application, it deletes temporary files in Windows, Chrome, and Internet Explorer, and that’s all. There is no attempt to validate whether you truly want to remove these files; they are simply deleted without warning, and it doesn’t even inform you how much space it has freed up upfront.

There’s no purpose for this utility to exist, as it doesn’t completely clean your Chrome history, and Windows’ default Disk Cleanup tool does a much better job of locating system trash. We used Norton’s File Cleanup first, then Disk Cleanup, which found 1.43GB of unnecessary files that we could safely delete.

The Startup Manager is by far the best of the performance tools. Not only does this show you which apps are configured to launch alongside Windows, but it also shows you how many resources they need, how common they are among Norton’s other customers, and gives you the option to delay or disable them.

There’s also a lot of information regarding each app’s performance. You can see a summary of an app’s CPU and RAM usage, as well as disk reads and writes, with just a few clicks.

The ordinary user is unlikely to care about any of this, but if you’re more knowledgeable and interested in identifying the most resource-intensive processes on your system, Norton’s performance monitoring is a valuable feature that none of the competitors offer.

There’s a lot to like about Norton AntiVirus Plus, which is powerful and has more features than other high-end suites. In our anti-ransomware test, the package didn’t quite match the best suites, but it did stop the threat, and it’s a good antivirus and security suite overall. It’s worth a shot.

The Norton 360 Standard plan is essentially Norton AntiVirus Plus with camera protection, an increase in backup capacity from 2GB to 10GB, and unlimited use of Norton Secure VPN for a single computer. It’s no longer just for PCs and Macs. Apps for Android and iOS can also help you protect your phone or tablet.

Prices start at $25 for a one-year license for one device, rising to $85 when renewed. Most specialist VPN providers charge $40 or more for one-year plans (albeit they often include five devices) so that first-year pricing is a fantastic value if you’ll utilize the VPN and don’t mind the single device constraint.

VPN

Norton Secure VPN is unusually integrated with the suite UI for a packaged VPN. There’s no need to open additional app windows or scroll through long lists of countries to locate what you’re looking for: simply click the Turn On button to connect to the fastest server outside of your country.

While this is good for anonymity because websites will always assume you’re in another country, it may be irritating if geoblocking prevents you from accessing some local sites.

If this is a problem, you can return to the traditional ‘choose a country’ list. There are 31 countries to choose from, but they are all country-specific, with no regional or city-level possibilities.

There is no Favorites system in the location list. The countries are displayed in a small box that can only display three locations at a time, causing you to scroll for longer to discover what you need.

It can connect automatically when you connect to insecure networks; ad and tracker blocking protects your online privacy; split tunneling lets you choose which apps use the tunnel and which don’t, and a kill switch protects you if the connection stops.

Some of these characteristics work nicely. For example, auto-connect and split tunneling function as expected. And, if our connection dropped, the software now properly notified us, ensuring that we were aware when our traffic was no longer safeguarded.

The kill switch didn’t work as well. It kicked in anytime we forcibly disconnected from the VPN, ensuring that our real IP address remained hidden: good news. However, the kill switch effectively blocked our internet, preventing the program from reconnecting: we had to turn it off before we could reconnect.

Norton achieved 280-290Mbps on a 1Gbps connection from a UK data center, according to our tests. That’s adequate for an IKEv2 connection, but NordVPN and numerous WireGuard-equipped VPNs were able to achieve speeds of up to 750Mbps.

Unblocking was a mixed bag, with the VPN allowing us to access BBC iPlayer and Amazon Prime but not US Netflix or Disney+. When you add it all up, Norton Secure VPN isn’t the worst service we’ve experienced. But it’s not a particularly good one. Although the VPN offers some value to Norton 360, it isn’t up to par with the finest of the specialist VPN services.

Mobile apps

Norton 360 Mobile Security for Android is a capable program that incorporates all of the core features of the desktop version as well as a slew of additional mobile-friendly features. Web protection steers you away from risky URLs, for example, while automatic and on-demand scanning finds malware before it can run.

Norton’s engine has proven to be quite accurate in testing, with AV-Android Test’s reports rating it a perfect 6/6 for protection in all six tests conducted over the past year. Norton’s Secure VPN is included in the app, allowing you to protect your wireless traffic with a single tap.

Norton 360 also helps you avoid problems by presenting crucial details on programs before you install them from Google Play. You’ll find out if the program is risky to your privacy, has intrusive adverts, uses a lot of your energy and data, and more.

SMS filtering, which examines texts for suspicious phishing links, and the ability to detect and warn you if you’re linked to a potentially shady network are two recent features.

Norton Mobile Security for iOS is a lot easier to use. You still get Norton’s outstanding web protection, as well as improved SMS filtering and a Wi-Fi security layer that warns you about potentially risky networks: more than enough to be useful.

Although the mobile apps don’t offer all of the features that rival apps have (anti-theft, for example), there’s still a lot to enjoy here. If you’re still unsure, give them a try; they have free trial versions.

More features

The spam filter in Norton 360 doesn’t get much attention on the website, perhaps because it’s so basic. It primarily integrates with Outlook (though it will work with Windows Mail on Windows 7) and is limited to POP3 and SMTP – no support for POP3 with SSL, IMAP, or Exchange accounts.

There’s no method to adjust the filter’s strength, either. Your only choice, if you don’t obtain the results you want, is to add email addresses to the Allowed and Blocked lists.

We’ve seen better spam filters, but you’re under no obligation to use them. Turn it off and look for an alternative if it doesn’t work for you. Users in some countries, including Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States, can also access Norton’s Dark Web Monitoring, which is part of the company’s LifeLock Identity Theft Protection service.

When you set it up, LifeLock will monitor Dark Web sites where stolen data is commonly sold, and you’ll be notified if your email address appears.

Many companies provide features that appear to be identical, but if you’re comparing bundles, make sure to read the fine print. Smaller antivirus programs may offer ‘data breach monitoring,’ for example, but they expect you to conduct your searches. They frequently use the Have I Been Pwned database as well, which you may check for free at any time.

No human searching is required with Norton’s Dark Web Monitoring, which is powered by a commercial identity theft prevention service. You can go about your business while the package keeps an eye on you in the background and sends you an alert if your personal information is exposed in a data breach. Much more practical.

Final verdict

The Secure VPN feature is at the heart of Norton 360 Standard. It appears to be a pretty decent deal if you’ll utilize it and don’t mind the single device constraint. If the VPN doesn’t work for you, there isn’t enough else to make the suite worthwhile.

Either upgrade to a higher Norton 360 package, which includes support for more devices and full identity theft protection, or broaden your horizons and looks into other vendors. It’s mostly about the statistics when upgrading from Norton 360 Standard to Deluxe.

Forget about the single-device license; Deluxe covers up to five PCs, Macs, phones, or tablets. You can install and utilize the VPN on any of those devices. In addition, your online backup capacity expands from 10GB to 50GB.

That’s more than enough to warrant the $35 first-year fee and $105 renewal fee. ( Norton 360 Standard is only $10 cheaper for the first year, at $25, and then $85 after that. However, there’s more in the form of Norton’s Parental Control feature.

It goes well beyond the standard security suite features, with precise content filtering, mobile device GPS tracking, and in-depth monitoring that lets you view everything from your children’s search phrases to the websites they visit and the movies they watch. It’s a useful addition to the suite, but keep in mind that it doesn’t operate on Macs.

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