Norton Internet Security 2011 public beta attacks new dangers

Symantec's latest version of its Norton Internet Security suite handles unsafe Facebook links and scareware

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Other useful changes

The earliest versions of Norton AntiVirus and Norton's security suites were notorious hogs of system resources and RAM (as were many similar security suites). However, Symantec licked that problem, especially with Norton Internet Security 2010, which is relatively lightweight.

Norton's System Insight, which reports on how Norton's suite generally affects system performance, has been improved in the latest version. It now watches individual applications as they're being used, and creates profiles of their use. It also warns users when a program is using too many system resources and slowing the system down.

NIS 2011
System Insight has been improved in NIS 2011 and can now alert users when a particular application slows down their PCs.

There are other useful changes as well, notably to the Norton Bootable Recovery Tool, which cleans your PC of really nasty infections without booting into your operating system. Think of it as the nuclear option of PC protection, to be used only when your system and operating system are thoroughly compromised.

The previous version of the Norton Bootable Recovery Tool wasn't particularly easy to use and required that you burn an .ISO image to create a boot disc. Doing that was beyond the capability of many users, so in NIS 2011, a wizard walks you through the process of creating the boot media. No understanding of .ISO files is needed. And the boot disc can now be created on a USB flash drive -- particularly important for netbook users who don't have a CD or DVD drive.

As with previous versions of the software, the suite also includes Norton Safe Web, a browser toolbar that tells you when search results turn up any potentially dangerous sites and alerts you when you visit one. As with earlier releases, a free version of the toolbar will be available, and there is a free beta available for download now.

In addition, the suite now includes a Reputation Scan feature that not only scans all the applications on your system and tells you their trust level, but also compares the overall trust level of the applications on your PC against the average trust level of other users of the software. (Trust level is based on a variety of factors, including the number of people who have the application installed and whether people have reported that the application is malware.) This is gives you a quick snapshot of the general overall safety of the applications on your PC.

NIS 2011
The Reputation Scan shows you how trusted each of your applications is and compares the overall reputation score of your PC to others.

The bottom line

The beta is available for free from the Norton Beta Center. Once it's downloaded, you have seven days to activate it for free by filling in a registration form. You'll get a 14-day registration period, then another 14-day registration period. After those periods end, you'll have to reinstall the beta to keep testing it. Norton does that because it expects a new version of the beta to be available by then and wants to make sure that only the newest versions of the beta are being tested.

Norton Internet Security 2011 offers some solid incremental improvements over the previous version of the suite, notably the ability to scan Facebook links and protect against scareware. When the final version of the program is ready, probably sometime in September, anyone using the previous version of Norton will be able to upgrade without additional cost, as long as they have a current subscription. And those who use other security programs would do well to consider it too.

Preston Gralla is a contributing editor to and the author of more than 35 books, including How the Internet Works (Que, 2006).

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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