Symantec on Monday launched the 2006 editions of its flagship consumer and small business Norton AntiVirus, Norton Internet Security, and Norton Personal Firewall products, all which now include a security status console that shows not only the Cupertino, Calif.-based vendor's products, but rivals' too.
All three packages now sport something Symantec's called Norton Protection Center, an all-in-one display that shows security status not in the context of features enabled, but in how secure the PC is for tasks such e-mail and Web browsing.
"There's never been so much awareness about security," said Laura Garcia-Manrique, Symantec's director of product management, "and so much confusion from the average end-user about what's secure and what's not. It's why there are so many Internet-connected computers which are not protected."
Symantec estimates that 30 to 40 percent of consumer and small business computers jacked into the Web are not adequately protected.
The Protection Center, Garcia-Manrique said, is meant to address the bottom-line question users have: "Is my system safe or not?"
"Customers just don't have a way to tell if their system is safe," she said.
The Center differs from Microsoft XP's Security Center display, argued Garcia-Manrique, in that the former encompasses PC and data security, as well as online security -- including such threats as spyware -- while Microsoft's is PC-centric.
"The Security Center is a good effort on Microsoft's part to bring an aggregated view to users, but ours goes beyond system security," Garcia-Manrique said, "to tell you whether your data or online activities are secure."
Symantec's Protection Center sniffs out all security software, not just Symantec's, to show the user what's secure. While Symantec wouldn't share the list of software it currently recognizes for the Center's display, it did say that both on-the-hard-drive and ISP-based security would be included.
"If the users has an updated version of McAfee on the PC, Protection Center will recognize it as protecting the computer," said Garcia-Manrique.
Also new to Internet Security is an evaluation/remediation tool dubbed Security Inspector that examines the PC's configuration and then corrects inadequate settings in the browser, detects weak passwords, and disables unnecessary Windows services. "We don't call it a vulnerability inspector, because that's not what it does," cautioned Garcia-Manrique, who said that the feature doesn't detect whether a PC's been updated with the latest Microsoft patches, for instance.
Norton AntiVirus 2006 -- which is also a component of Internet Security 2006 -- boasts new spyware and adware additions for detecting and removing that form of malicious software. It also protects the default browser from home page hijacking, a common tactic by both spyware and adware.
Personal Firewall 2006, available as a stand-alone product and as part of Internet Security 2006, has been enhanced so that it automatically configures itself for all the software found on the hard drive, without bothering the user the first time each program tries to connect to the Web.
Norton AntiVirus 2006, Norton Internet Security 2006, and Norton Personal Firewall 2006 will be available within the next two weeks, said Symantec, at prices of $40 for AntiVirus, $70 for Internet Security, and $50 for Personal Firewall. Three-license packs will be sold for $80 and $120 for AntiVirus and Internet Security, respectively, while 5- and 10-seat packs geared toward small business will have price tags of $140/$260 (AntiVirus) and $245/$455 (Internet Security).