Norton Internet Security 2005

Reviewed by: Mark Goldstein, November 2004, updated Mar 2007
Published by: Symantec
Requires: Windows 98 through XP Professional; 200MB of available hard disk space, Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.5 or later
MSRP: $69.95

(Ed. Note: Looking for a newer version? Check out our review of Norton Internet Security 2007)

Are there any technology topics more widely discussed today than antivirus software, firewall software and Internet security in general? Not likely methinks and there's good reason too because spam, viruses, trojans, worms, junk mail, spyware, denial of service (DOS) attacks and system & network hijacking attempts are at an all time high. It's a jungle out there.

Indescribably large and massively influential corporate entities such as Microsoft, Oracle, Sun, Apple, the U.S. government, the governments of dozens of other large technologically advanced nations and a separate but no less incisively brilliant group of private research technologists scattered around facilities in every major country on our little planet are pouring financial and development resources into solving the aforementioned problems. The fact that most of the problems are created on an ongoing basis by private, amateur programmers and script kiddies working at home or at school on cheap computers is something the corporate and governmental technocracies does not willingly discuss. You'd think all that corporate might would scare off the miscreants. But however much the contestants in the current battle appear to be mismatched, another fact remains: traditional methods of virus and trojan deployment works like a charm, which in turn means that at least for the foreseeable future, somebody out there (lots of somebodies in fact) is always going to view the file attachment attached to a phony e-mail from a total stranger telling you that you can protect yourself from the latest scourge on the Internet simply by clicking the attachment so conveniently provided. Don't do it!


Symantec has designed Norton Internet Security to protect your computer against the assaults of all the aforementioned problems. In fact, while the competition in this product category is active, enthusiastic and growing rapidly, there are no other programs quite as robust as this one. You'll get a look into that robustness immediately after installation. The total installation time is somewhere close to fifteen minutes, depending on the speed of your computer, and possibly even longer if you really study the configuration part of the installation (the configuration process begins automatically after installation). That's quite a bit of time considering the high speed at which today's computers operate. The point is that unless you're an experienced user, you're asked to spend enough time in the configuration dialogs to get a feel for what the software actually does while it's active. Throughout the configuration session, you'll find links to definitions of terms, links to online help and links to other parts of the software, all of which help you understand exactly what's going on, what's dangerous, what's benign and what you need to do on an ongoing basis. Home networks are recognized automatically and we had no internal access problems, which is sadly not the case sometimes with competing products such as ZoneAlarm and SystemSuite's NetDefense Firewall. Both ZoneAlarm and NetDefense require that you initially authorize incoming and outgoing access for your local network, a particularly odd annoyance when you're doing a simple program update—ZoneAlarm and NetDefense often fail to pass forward some existing network access settings. Norton Internet Security 2005 doesn't seem to suffer from this particular problem.

What's the significance of the name "Norton" in the product title? Peter Norton is a software engineer. In the 1980s, he produced a popular tool to retrieve erased data from MS-DOS disks, which was followed by several other tools which were collectively known as the Norton Utilities. Along with it he produced the Norton Commander, a very popular file managing tool for DOS, the design of which has been widely imitated in Windows file managers ever since, and Norton Guide which is a Terminate & Stay Resident (TSR) program which showed reference information for assembly language. He and his company, Peter Norton Computing, also produced several other programs and technical manuals. In 1990 Norton sold his company to Symantec which keeps the Norton brand name alive in many of its products including Norton GoBack, Norton AntiVirus and Norton Internet Security. Now you know.

Cons: Symantec products are traditionally designed to hook deeply into your computer. Before popping the installation CD into the drive, shut down all running programs. We really do mean ALL programs - all the junk running in your system tray, unneeded background processes and so on. If this is beyond you, trust us when we tell you that you need to find a local geek to help out. Do it and you'll benefit from a clean and absolutely stable installation of a superb, powerful product. Fail to do it and you're inviting problems. We could wish for more friendly language in several parts of the user interface. We could also wish for configuration language that is more consistent with the operating system (for example Symantec uses the word Supervisor rather than Administrator). Some of the online and dialog help is cryptic in that it fails to explain differences between features in Norton Internet Security which are similar to some found in Windows (security and parental control settings for example) and whether or not there may be conflicts with similar settings in Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player. This version of Norton Internet Security is still available for sale as of March 2007 but you'd be well advised to purchase the latest version in order to take advantage of all the important security improvements to the product.

Pros: Symantec has been deeply into this stuff for years and its experience shows. The product is mature, deeply powerful and supported by extremely useful resources such as the Symantec Antivirus Research Center (SARC) which provides free online virus information, solutions and threat assessments. In my view, there's nothing else on the market quite this powerful and uniquely comprehensive: antispam, antivirus, firewall, privacy control, parental control, pop-up blocking, ActiveX & Java blocking all in one, highly configurable package? It's quite a useful accomplishment which continues to improve with each new release. I stepped outside the usual Kickstartnews tradition of "real reviews by real users" by actually doing a morning of lab testing of Norton Internet Security 2005 on half a dozen computers ranging from an aging Pentium II Windows 98 box right up to my shiny new Pentium 4 Extreme Windows XP Professional main system. Every installation was glitch-free and on each and every system the software went about its job quietly and efficiently without affecting system stability or speed. I've got a floppy disk full of the newest (and some not so new) viruses and other nasty stuff ("real reviews by real users" or not, a security suite like this needs to win some serious challenges before we can honestly recommend it). The antivirus module nailed everything before damage could be done. Pop-ups of every description were quietly blocked. A few days of training and refinement of the antispam module and otherwise polluted Outlook and Eudora inboxes began to look sane once again. Symantec's LiveUpdate feature regularly and automatically updated the virus, pop-up and spam profiles. The firewall operated flawlessly blocking all external access attempts by random and nameless assailants, and in one experiment completely blocked and then erased a DOS worm and a nasty system hijacker that I deliberately installed on one system. Norton Internet Security 2005 works as advertised and then some. You need this. Highly recommended.




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