Norton 2009 to Speed Up Malware Screening

Anti-malware software is a given for any Windows PC today. Studies have shown that even Windows Vista, with its new security measures, remains vulnerable to many networked attacks. But while security software may be ubiquitous, it's hardly universally loved. Slow scanning, intrusive alerts, and endless database updates can sometimes make antivirus apps seem like just as much of a burden as the malware they aim to thwart.

Fortunately, Symantec seems to have taken such user complaints to heart. The security vendor reports that new versions of Norton Internet Security and Norton Anti-Virus are in the works, and this time, a faster, more streamlined user experience is top priority.

"Based on customer feedback, we viewed performance as a key feature for this release," said Symantec senior vice president Rowan Trollope in a statement issued today. The Norton 2009 product line is said to incorporate more than 300 improvements designed to increase performance -- ranging from an improved scanning engine to reduced memory and disk space footprints -- in what Symantec hopes will "set a new industry standard for speed and performance."

In one of the product's cleverer twists, the new Norton doesn't just scan faster; it also tries to scan smarter. A new technology called Norton Insight provides data about commonly-installed files compiled from other Norton users, which allows the scanner to skip those items that are statistically least likely to be identified as malware.

The process of updating the product's malware signature database has also been streamlined. Rather than downloading large updates at regular intervals, Norton 2009 receives individual updates as a steady trickle, almost continuously. There's also a "silent mode" than can suspend the update process during game play or other processor-intensive tasks.

For my money, anything that can reduce the amount of system resources devoted to anti-malware operations is good news, and Symantec claims its goal is to create "the fastest security product in the world, hands down." But don't just take Symantec's word for it. Beta versions of the Norton 2009 products are available now from the company's Web site.

Is performance top priority for your anti-malware software purchases, or are you willing to trade off speed for security? What else can security vendors do to better prepare you for the onslaught of Internet-borne threats? Sound off in the PC World community forums.

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