4 security suites that protect all your devices
OSes protected: Windows, OS X, Android
No. of devices protected: Up to five devices for any combination of Windows, OS X and Android systems
Norton One offers several choices, depending on what you want to protect. If you're using a Windows-based PC, you can choose whether you want to install Norton 360 (which offers a full gamut of protection software and system tools) or Norton Internet Security 2012 (which is essentially the same product as Norton 360 except that it doesn't have Norton 360's backup-and-restore and tune-up capabilities). Macs get Norton Internet Security for Mac, while Android devices (both tablets and phones) get Norton Mobile Security. In any case, you also get 25GB of online storage.
Norton's Web dashboard can't be considered a powerful addition to the security suite. Like McAfee's interface, you can only use it for installing and uninstalling software, and for checking what software is installed on your various devices. Because of this, in my tests I found myself generally using it only for installation; after that point, I rarely returned to it.
To install a part of the suite on a new device, you click "Add device" and then enter an email address. A setup link is then sent to the device that, when clicked, sends you to a Web page where you can download the software. In the case of Android, you can also scan a QR code that appears onscreen and download the software that way.
Apart from installing software, though, there's little else you can do on the Web dashboard. It shows you when a device is using a part of the suite -- for example, when a PC is actively using Norton 360, the dashboard will say that it's "online." But just showing that a device is using a product isn't a particularly useful feature. And it doesn't always work -- it never, for example, showed when my Android phone was using Norton Mobile Security.
Those not already familiar with Symantec's Windows-based suite Norton 360 will find an excellent security suite that includes extras for juicing up system performance and backing up files. You'll find all the usual security tools, including anti-virus, anti-malware, anti-spam and firewall; there is also identity protection, which includes anti-phishing, malicious Web-page blocking and password management. It's unlikely you'll need to change any default settings, but if you want to, the Settings area lets you tweak to your heart's content.
Particularly noteworthy is Norton's System Insight feature, which checks any currently running software for safety and reliability. It does this by leveraging the experience that Symantec product users have had with the application, and shows the application's relative trustworthiness, rating it either Poor, Good or Trusted. System Insight also shows whether that rating is based on input from a few people or many. And it shows a rating for each application's stability level, also based on other people's usage.
System Insight also warns you if any of these applications are slowing down your system. Stability and trust ratings are shown in a list side by side with resource usage, so it's easy to see at a glance how each app rates.
Norton 360 also includes a solid set of tools for improving PC performance, such as a disk optimizer and file cleanup. Especially useful is Startup Manager, which provides details about each application and helps you decide which to run (and which not to run) at startup, so that you can speed your bootup and possibly improve overall performance. You can also delay applications from starting until some time after startup. And it includes Parental Controls as well.
I found that despite of all these tools, my PC took no performance hit from the use of Norton. Until I wanted to use it, I didn't even notice it was there.
OS X protection
Norton Internet Security for the Mac (which works with OS X Lion or later) offers a full suite of security software, but it doesn't include most of the extras in the PC version, such as system performance tools and System Insight.
So you get anti-virus, firewall and Norton Identity, which blocks phishing sites. There's also a File Guard feature that blocks changes to files and stops files from being accessed if personal information might be compromised.
All of the features are available from a single icon at the top of the screen. Click it and a drop-down list appears; you can then choose the security feature you want to customize or run. The anti-virus features lets you select individual folders of files to scan, do a quick scan of all your files, or do a more comprehensive system scan. You can set the scan to ignore certain files and folders. The firewall also allows for a good deal of customization.
Generally, though, Norton Internet Security for the Mac is a set-and-forget piece of software. Install it, use the defaults, and you'll be protected.
Norton One's Android security software, Norton Mobile Security, protects Android devices against a wide variety of threats.
You can scan for malware manually or on a daily, weekly or monthly schedule. You can also scan your SD card, which is vital for Android users who have moved apps to their SD cards.
The anti-theft feature is especially well done. You create a password, and if you lose your phone or it's stolen, you can send a text message to it from any phone with the word "lock" followed by your password. That will lock the phone, and it can only be unlocked when your password is entered.
If you download a free add-on, you can also locate your device by going to the Norton Anti-Theft website; from there, you can remotely trigger your device's camera to take a photo, which may help you in finding the device or identifying a thief.
However, you can't lock your device remotely from the Web -- only from another phone -- so your only choice for remote lock is sending text message, which is far from ideal. This is something that should be fixed.
There is a robust set of tools for blocking spam phone calls and text messages. You can enter the numbers you want to block by typing them in manually, selecting them from your contacts or selecting them from your call log or SMS log.
When someone from your blocked list calls you, the call is sent directly to your voicemail, so you aren't bothered by it. When someone from the blocked list sends a text, it simply doesn't get to you. You can review logs of all blocked calls and SMS messages. And you can easily unblock calls.
A Web protection feature blocks phishing sites and sites known to harbor malware. You can override the block, although the override lasts for only 30 minutes. The block works only with the built-in Android browser, not with third-party browsers such as Dolphin.
It's hard to argue with an all-in-one suite that offers such a full set of security tools. Both the computer-based protection and mobile-based protection of Norton One are stellar, and pack pretty much every security feature you might ask for. Extra features such as Norton Insight and Startup Manager made Norton One stand out even more.
Norton One falls down where most others in this roundup do -- the Web interface. At this point, the Web interface is little more than an easy way to install software and see which of your devices are protected. If you're looking for a fully featured Web dashboard for helping manage security on all of your devices, Webroot SecureAnywhere Complete is a better bet.
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