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Symantec Sets Next Release of Norton 360

Norton 360 2.0 focuses on enhanced identity protection features, improved user accessibility and more backup options.

While the basic Norton 360 engine is the same, version 2.0 is designed with a stronger focus on usabiilty. The new beta version 2.0 offers expanded PC security, identity protection, and more backup and PC tuneup options. It's also accessible and easy-to-use, offering a direct link to streamline user feedback.

Symantec will introduce the premier version of Norton 360, which will include improved antispam accuracy and enhanced control features, near the end of the first quarter.

Although the product was initially designed for the security novice, a Symantec survey found that at least one third of its users were tech savvy.

"It resonates with anyone who wants security but doesn't want to deal with it," said Jeff Kyle, group product manager for Norton 360. "We weren't sure if the advanced users were really ready for that. But the buying behavior has shown Norton 360 resonates well across all segments."

Security experts say that the new product addresses an evolving security threat environment that is multilayered and complex. Symantec studies have shown an 89 percent increase in plug-in vulnerabilities over the course of 2007. And drive-by downloads, which previously installed on malicious sites, now also exploit browser vulnerabilities on legitimate pages, allowing criminals to infiltrate and attack poorly secured Web sites. These attacks have increasingly been used to deliver spyware for identity theft, security professionals say.

"The fact is that we're seeing an increase in threats that try to exploit those [pages]. They'll be growing in the next year to two years, until the bad guys try to find a different way in," said Kyle. "You need different layers of security to protect against different threats."

Version 2.0's security options include an intelligent background scanner with improved scan speed, firewall adjustments and remote security status monitoring. It also features a home network map that checks the status of wireless security, maps connected devices and provides expert advice to help users manage network security settings. Plus, an intelligent background scheduler senses when the computer is shifting into idle mode before launching tasks or performing backup functions.

"The background scheduler is a little smarter in order to minimize the impact on what the user is doing," said Kyle. "It senses when the computer is moving into idle, then it will launch certain tasks, or backup. If (the computer is) in battery mode, the background scheduler automatically doesn't run."

Version 2.0 features tighter integration with Windows Explorer which enables easy backup of major media and word files. Enhanced tuneup options include a feature that cleans up and removes unneeded registry files and the system also automatically shuts down upon task completion. In addition, users will have access to a diagnostic report, a one-page summary of information, which can be printed, saved or e-mailed to a technician.

Sophisticated identity protection offers users more antiphishing options, as well as anonymous profiles, secure password storage and protection and automatic form filling for online Web applications that transfer personal or identifying information.

"We definitely are looking for features that resonate well outside of security." said Kyle. "The password manager itself allows you to adopt better practices. We kind of create the safe playground to surf wherever you want to and make transactions without fear."

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