Is Norton's Paid Security Protection Worth It?

Category: Security

Unlike most internet security products, Norton does not have a free watered-down version of its security suite. But you do get 60 days to try Norton products before your credit/debit card is charged for the first time. So continuing my exploration of free versus paid anti-malware tools, I took the Deluxe version of Norton Internet Security for a test drive. Read on for my verdict...

Norton Free vs Paid

Should you pay for Norton Internet Security? It's got brand recognition, but is it better than the many free antivirus tools available? If you want to follow along from home, you can download Norton Internet Security Deluxe, or its sister, the Premium version, from this page.

Immediately, we run into a problem that has plagued Norton, its products, and long-suffering Norton customers since the company’s first product launch in 1991: inconsistent messaging. The download page says the trial lasts 30 days. The confirmation email I received for my order says no payment is due until August 4, 2018, the 61st day after I installed the program.

The discrepancy does not matter to me. If I cannot decide within 30 days whether I need any program badly enough to pay for it, then I don’t need it. It likely matters to Norton’s sales team, which may well be having trouble retaining buyers past the trial period. The solution to that problem is not “increase the trial period” but it seems the sales team persuaded management that it is; they must be pretty good sales people!

Should you pay for Norton Security?

The dashboard of “Deluxe” includes an icon leading to a Performance section that I don’t recall seeing mentioned on the sales pages of Norton’s site. It includes standard “cleaning and optimizing” features: disk defragmentation, junk files cleanup; and startup items manager.

They are all shamefully crude compared to CCleaner, Advanced System Care, or even Windows’ built-in analogous features. For example, the defragger did not give me an opportunity to specify which disk I wanted defragged; it simply checked all five disks and decided which ones needed it. Likewise, the junk files cleaner didn’t ask if I wanted all of Chrome’s temporary files deleted, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t!

There is also something called “Graphs” that purports to show how much of CPU, disk, and RAM resources Norton has consumed each time it ran a scan during the past three months. For example, my first Quick Scan with Norton used 1% of my CPU’s capacity at a time when a total of 17% was in use. It’s as if Norton is hypersensitive about decades of accusations that its products are resource hogs.

So how well do those scans do at protecting you? In the latest AV-Comparatives independent testing of Internet Security products, Norton scores no better in the real-world protection category than Avast, AVG, Avira, Bitdefender, Kaspersky, or McAfee. In performance testing, it scored only 2 or 3 stars, while most of those competitors scored 3 of 3. It was also noted that Norton incorrectly flagged "many false positives" when scanning for malware.

Take a Pass on the Free Extensions

Norton touts four Chrome browser extensions that purportedly “help protect you from phishing and other risky sites.” But just like the time AVG broke Chrome's security with a badly implemented toolbar, these Norton extensions make you even less secure.

Safe Search: “Use Norton Safe Search when you search from the address bar.” Google’s SafeSearch filters only p*rn. Norton uses the Ask.com search engine and Norton’s own algorithms to filter “risky” sites. Google Chrome lets you specify an unnamed “Web service” to do the same for you, free of charge. Oh, and the Norton Safe Search extension is also free, you need not buy a Norton product to get it from Google Web Store.

Set Norton Safe Search as your homepage and new tab page. (search.norton.com)” Why should I do that? So Norton can see every site I visit via their homepage?

Norton Security Toolbar “warns you of dangerous sites when you browse online, helping to protect you from identity theft and online scams.” This is Norton Safe Search, only more visible as a toolbar; which means less of what you want to see is visible. Also, this extension is rated ? stars and reviews are terrible in Google’s app store.

Norton Identity Safe - “Never forget a password! Safely store and autofill your passwords with Norton Identity Safe.” Google Chrome does the same thing. This extension is also Rated ? stars and has terrible reviews.

These functions are redundant or pointless, so why are they in Norton’s security software? I surmise they earn money for Norton each time they are used, just as AVG made money each time its extension was used. The entity paying both firms may be Ask.com, which is used by Norton Safe Search and was used by AVG’s buggy extension.

The fewer browser extensions you have, the better. Extensions increase the “attack surface” of a browser, providing more points where an attacker may gain entry. There is no reason to install any of Norton’s extensions, so don’t. (The same goes for any extensions from security software developers; I’ve not seen one that served a legitimate purpose.)

Avoiding That First Card Charge

Since I do not plan to leave Norton on even my “sacrificial” PC past the time this article is published, I logged in to norton.com to see about cancelling my trial and deleting my account. As soon as I signed in, I met this final inconsistent message:

Norton Setup / Cancel Account Even though I have registered, given up my credit card details, received email confirming my order, and downloaded Norton Security Deluxe, this little corner of Norton thinks I have never installed any Norton products. Honestly, I did; I haven’t simply made up all the preceding paragraphs!

That “setup” screen goes away when I click on the X in the upper-right corner, but only to reveal another page when my only options are to download and install some things; I wish to do exactly the opposite of “install Norton,” so I click on the male silhouette in the upper-right corner and select “Account settings.” I’m winging it here because there are no textual hints to be found.

Under “Subscriptions” I find mine, Norton Security Deluxe, and it expires August 4, 2018. “Automatic renewal” is enabled. I quickly disable it. Then I click on the little “i” for info, and learn that more info can be found in Norton’s Refund Policy, which reads in part: “You may cancel your subscription at any time by signing in to My Norton and turning OFF the Automatic Renewal setting…" So I’m safe now, right? I probably won’t know until August 5, but I think I am.

So long Norton, it will be at least another ten years before I see you again (I hope)! Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "Is Norton's Paid Security Protection Worth It?"

(See all 31 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

RandiO
07 Jun 2018

This is beginning read like a spy-novel and I can't wait until the last chapter; where, you will be telling us 'who done it' (and/or which security suite you recommend)!
You are? Aren't you? Mr. Rankin?


Posted by:

Danny G
07 Jun 2018

Odd, PC Magazine seems to like norton:

https://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2372364,00.asp


Posted by:

Jeryl
07 Jun 2018

I have Norton and as far as I know it works OK. The one thing I don't like is that the price seems to go up every renewal period. "Richard" in the comments said that we should not renew directly with them but to buy a "Key" and renew that way. Is that really an option?


Posted by:

Ron Mullard
07 Jun 2018

Norton is the only security that I've tried and got a virus and a root kit,ended up having to reformat and reinstall.Never again,never had any problems with any of the free ones I've tried.


Posted by:

Danny G
07 Jun 2018

Looks like PC world likes it too:

https://www.pcworld.com/article/3219792/computers/best-antivirus-for-windows-pc.html


Posted by:

Martin
07 Jun 2018

I used a paid multiple-computer Norton version (whichever it was) for a couple years. It seemed to work fairly well, although it was a little expensive for me. My problem was that it would, every once in a while, on one computer or another, crash in some way, shape, or form. Each time I had to uninstall it and then (with GREAT difficulty) reinstall. I now use paid McAfee, free SuperAntiSpyware, and free Malwarebytes. BitDefender is also lurking somewhere around (??-maybe the router?-it's a multiple-user system) since my computers often get notifications from them.


Posted by:

HostUR.Biz
07 Jun 2018

I am an Internet and computer guru. I have been advising all of my clients to get rid of Norton. Since it's beginning! For all the above reasons.

When clients bring their computers to me because they run slowly, if they had Norton, I dested their speed, then removed Norton and tested again. Always faster. Then I go ahead with my Super Tuneup.

Don't know how Norton stays ion business except to collect and sell data. HaHa.


Posted by:

bill borne
07 Jun 2018

To uninstall Norton goto Norton site and look for Norton_Removal_Tool.exe
It will uninstall completely but will uninstall all Norton programs on puter


Posted by:

Phil
07 Jun 2018

I've used Norton for over 20 years now. Only a couple of occasions did I disable Norton and try another program, McAffee and AVG. I didn't like the interface (probably because like the rest of us we get used to the programs we depend on and resist change except for a good reason).

Like Charlie said, they solved the memory hog issues from years ago.

I keep a pretty tight ship here but on two occasions I was attached. Both times Norton cornered the rat and offered me the kill button.

For the price (free with Comcast), Norton's a keeper for me.


Posted by:

Jack
07 Jun 2018

I've used Norton 360 Premier on my computers for many years, and have never had a problem with viruses etc. However, at times when my PC slows way down and I check Task Manager, the slowdown is almost always caused by Norton or Firefox, or both.
I have wondered why router manufacturers don't offer antivirus protection on their routers. It seems like that would be a good place to screen out the malware before it even gets to your systems. And on the router, it could update automatically.
Seems like the router manufacturers may be missing an opportunity.


Posted by:

James Lowell
07 Jun 2018

I used Norton in the past, but I now used PCMatic. I like the concept of a "white list," and I have not had any virus/malware issues since I switched. I put my wife's laptop on PCMatic (she visits free game sites, which I think were the source of her virus problems). Since installing PCMatic we have had no malware issues with her computer. Bob, have you reviewed PCMatic?


Posted by:

Bob Deloyd
07 Jun 2018

I consider Norton malware and the first thing I do when I get a new computer that has it preinstalled is uninstall it.


Posted by:

Denis
08 Jun 2018

PC Magazines like the advertising $ and are not going to bite the hand that feeds them.


Posted by:

Bill Pfeifer
08 Jun 2018

Norton software was great ages ago, when Peter Norton (an ordained Zen monk) ran the business.
When Symantec took over, they just couldn't get their act together.


Posted by:

Lee Dalzell
08 Jun 2018

I had Norton on my first computer and maybe the second--don't remember (early 90s?). I do remember it totally messed up my computer and we had to scrub it out to get rid of it. Have not tried since.


Posted by:

Jim
08 Jun 2018

Used Norton for many many years, never ever did I have a problem. Great software!


Posted by:

TOMMY TEAGUE
08 Jun 2018

Bob I have tried Norton off and on for over 20 Years thinking it would get better. But it always disappoints me with its memory hog issues and its unnecessary tool bars and plugins.
It is hard to get rid of it as you point out and as Bill points out you have to use the Norton Removal Tool to get all of it.
Denis is right about "PC Magazines liking the advertising $ and are not going to bite the hand that feeds them."
Norton has been pre-installed by big box stores for years so there must be a business connection there too...
Bill is right about "When Symantec took over" it got worse after that.
Thank you Bob, I use AVG and did not know about AVG making money each time its extension was used. I will get rid of that today.

Thank you for a great article.


Posted by:

Larry
08 Jun 2018

Bob, I quit using security 'suites' many years ago. I've found the only 'suite' worth it's salt is MALWAREBITES PREMIUM (it has AV built in). Apparently I bought the premium long enough ago that ,like a Forever stamp, it NEVER expires! Using that, Super Antispyware, the new Windows Defender and CCleaner once in awhile, I've been good for the last couple of years. So - NO AV programs/security suites are needed!


Posted by:

bILL
08 Jun 2018

I'm with James L. Switch to PCMatic and haven't looked back.


Posted by:

A.N.
11 Jul 2018

I have used Norton before, but after all scandals with NSA, back doors in US software, I do not trust American software anymore...So, I use Kaspersky and it is VERY VERY good, no problems at all !


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