Last week Symantec launched free public beta testing for Norton Internet Security 2012 and Norton AntiVirus 2012. Antivirus testing, performance measurements, and so on will have to wait until final release of the security suite, but I installed Norton Internet Security 2012 beta for look at its new and changed features.
Shared with Norton AntiVirus
Like Norton AntiVirus, Norton Internet Security boasts a new, simplified user interface. In fact, it's hard to tell the two apart when both are using the simplified interface. In each case three big buttons dominate the screen. By clicking those buttons the user can quickly launch a scan, check for updates, or switch to the advanced interface.
The advanced interface looks very much like that of Norton Internet Security 2011. It's a bit more spacious because the staging area across the bottom isn't present. That staging area can display a map of virus activity or the status of Norton Online Family Premier, Norton Safe Web, or Norton Online Backup. In the 2012 beta, the staging area shows up only in the simple interface.
The Norton Insight feature now offers stability information along with other reputation information. If a legitimate program tends to crash (based on information from millions of Norton users) you'll get a warning on downloading it. The reputation scan reports on reliability now, too.
On launching an antivirus scan, users can now set Norton Internet Security to shut down the computer after the scan finishes, just as with Norton AntiVirus. Norton Internet Security 2012 beta also includes the bandwidth metering and power source control features described with Norton AntiVirus.
Norton Internet Security includes browser protection features not found in the standalone antivirus. Norton Safe Web helps users avoid dangerous Web sites and marks up links in popular search engines. Identity Safe offers form-filling and password management features that come close to top password managers like LastPass 1.72 Premium and RoboForm Everywhere 7.
Only those using Internet Explorer or Firefox have been able to take advantage of these protective features up to now. With the 2012 beta, both Safe Search and Identity Safe are fully functional in Google's Chrome browser.
Identity Safe has also mellowed with age. This feature frequently needs to get the user's attention, for example to ask whether it should save login credentials for the current site. The slightly jarring popups used before have been replaced by a more pleasing infobar that slides in at the top of the browser's content area.
Symantec has also taken a cue from LastPass and RoboForm Everywhere, both of which allow sharing of the same form-filling and password data on multiple computers. Users can now synchronize Identity Safe data on multiple computers by logging in to their Norton Account online.
Symantec's Norton 360 Version 5.0 does everything Norton Internet Security does and adds online backup and tuneup features. In general Norton Internet Security aims to please users with more technical ability and Norton 360 serves those who just want security without fuss.
However, one component of Norton 360's tuneup tool collection seems better suited to the tech-savvy users of Norton Internet Security. The Startup Manager lists all programs that launch at startup and allows users to reversibly disable their launch, or set them to launch after a delay. It also reports on each items' prevalence among Norton community users, and its resource usage.
Starting with the 2012 beta, Norton Internet Security users can now make use of this feature. To reach it, click the link titled "Performance" on the main window. This visibly flips the main window over to reveal a graphical display of performance statistics. Alongside this graphical display you'll find a link to launch the Startup Manager.
Full Testing to Come
This is just a quick look at some of the changes in the initial beta of Norton Internet Security. What I've seen so far looks good. I like the simplified interface, and I'm glad that Identity Safe has been toned down. The real proof, of course, will come when I verify the promised enhancements in Norton's protective technology.
I'll put both the suite and the standalone antivirus through my usual rigorous testing when it reaches final release. If you'd like to have your own hands-on experience you can download the beta here.