If you're old enough to remember PCs, the name Peter Norton will be familiar to you.
In the eighties, Norton was early to develop much needed utilities for PCs. His bespectacled super-serious engineer likeness adorned boxes of software. For the Norton AntiVirus box he even wore a stethoscope around the neck for some reason.
Never as wildly exuberant as his bath salts inspired antivirus contemporary John McAfee, Norton is 76 now. He collects art and Symantec, which bought his company ages ago, no longer uses him as a model for the internet-delivered security software it markets.
Security software has to deal with a much more complex threat environment nowadays, and Symantec's $99.95 a year Norton 360 Premium suite comes loaded with features aimed at keeping you safe online.
That subscription charge is pretty good value as you can license five devices, that can run Microsoft Windows, Apple macOS and iOS, and Google Android, covering laptops, tablets and smartphones.
Being a curious sort, I installed Norton on a Mac laptop to start with. Symantec says it should work, and it does. Sort of.
You miss out on some features like the handy 125 GB of cloud backup on macOS and iOS, that are available on Windows and Android. There's a password manager for web sites that syncs across devices, but it's not a full replacement for the clunky macOS Keychain Access which is free and won't expire.
While I was figuring out what works on which platform, Norton 360 suggested it's possible to "extend your protection by Installing Norton on other PC, Mac, Android and iOS devices" with a download link or a QR code. Sounds easy, but it doesn't actually work on Apple devices.
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When I clicked on the link Norton displays, my iPad downloaded a setup.zip compressed file which I'd have thought was a no-no for a security vendor. The "Install Norton 360.app" doesn't do anything in an iPad.
Installing the Norton Mobile Security app from the App Store works, but it only runs in portrait mode on the iPad.
On Android the download link after a few system error messages told you to head to the Google Play app store to download Norton, but a certificate error put paid to that. No worries, I can go to the app stores and get Norton from there but this wasn't a great start.
Back on the Mac, Norton 360 also comes with an easy to use virtual private network (VPN) client to tunnel your traffic when you're connected to untrusted networks, and goes via Auckland's Server Mania provider.
The VPN and the ability to check on software network connections are great, ditto the configurable Norton 360 firewall, although macOS already has one. The Safe Web Plus plug-in for popular web browsers was a pain to configure, requiring you to log in again each time you wanted to change things.
Note you can't change the VPN end-point, however so that it looks like you're North America for instance - in case you're thinking of using the VPN feature to, say, sign up for Netflix US.
I really wanted to sanitise my email stores with Norton 360, which has a fast scanner that scores very well in independent malware detection tests. Email is a great attack vector for malware: just send something official looking, an "invoice" or similar and boom! Ransomware scrambles all your user files.
Long story short, that didn't pan out either. Norton 360 doesn't integrate with Apple Mail and current versions of macOS won't let third-party apps into the mail folders. That's a good security feature, ironically enough.
I dug up a fake invoice attachment in a spam message, saved it to an accessible bit of the file system and ran it past Norton 360. Nothing detected.
Google's multi-engine malware detection site VirusTotal flagged the attachment as a Windows Trojan however. That included the Symantec scanner they use.
Turned out that Norton 360 could detect the malware but only if I mounted the disk image format attachment onto my Mac and opened it, which was not what I wanted to do at all.
Norton 360 quirks apart, operating systems are moving towards locked-down environments like iOS and Windows 10 S, with restrictions on what users and software can access, scanned email attachments and pre-vetted programs available only from a trusted company store.
Symantec will disagree with me but in such an environment, there's no need for third-party security software for the vast majority of people. That's probably what should have happened decades ago too.