Is Norton's Paid Security Protection Worth It?
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!
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:
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...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 7 Jun 2018
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Is Norton's Paid Security Protection Worth It? (Posted: 7 Jun 2018)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved