Spyware blocking, detection, and removal turn out to be weak components of the otherwise excellent Norton Internet Security 2004, which earned an Editors Choice award in our recent roundup of Internet security suites (November 25). Like the other suites in this roundup, Norton includes a firewall, antivirus and antispam scanners, parental controls, and privacy-monitoring capabilities that watch for transmission of sensitive personal data. But in the realm of antispyware tools, this suite is no substitute for the more robust packages reviewed here. If you want an Internet security suite that includes strong spyware capabilities, consider McAfee Internet Security 2004 instead.
Nortons spyware monitoring, like Trend Micros PC-cillin Internet Security 2004, is bolted onto Symantecs standard virus-scanning engine—though in the case of Norton, spyware scanning is enabled by default. While this integration offers the advantage of making spyware scanning an integral part of your regular antivirus sweeps, Nortons engine just isnt very effective at coping with spyware.
When we scanned a variety of infested systems, Norton detected only a handful of the lurking spyware products. It presented its results in a simple list, with no detailed information about the threats, although double-clicking led to a Symantec Web page with more information on each item. This additional detail turned out to be crucial, since Norton was unable to remove a significant number of the few spyware products it managed to identify, urging us instead to follow the provided manual-removal instructions to disinfect our system. While having this backup is a good idea, we dont think a security suite should force us to use it so often.
Norton also did little in our testing to help us avoid installing problematic software. To its credit, it did detect and block the browser hijacker Lop the moment we clicked on the download link, and its script blocking curtailed (but did not entirely eliminate) the undesired browser modifications that FindTheWebsiteYouNeed foisted on us. This, however, was its only success in that regard.
Like PC-cillin, Norton includes a privacy protection feature that lets you enter sensitive personal information such as your bank account numbers and block Internet traffic containing these secrets.
While weve often been bullish on Nortons security products (and we recommend Norton Internet Security 2004 as a whole), when it comes specifically to antispyware, were more bearish.