Product Type: Symantec in Data Security
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Too user friendly?
Symantec Norton Internet Security 2000
Member Name: lordpercy
Symantec Norton Internet Security 2000
Date: 08/09/00, updated on 26/03/01 (197 review reads)
Advantages: Simple, user friendly
Disadvantages: Too simple for all but novices!
Can software be too user friendly and over simplified? Well in my opinion that is the case with Symantec's Internet security 2000.
The world of PC's is hellishly complicated with everything from bits to bytes designed to confuse and confuddle at every turn. So it's hardly surprising that a company should start to make a living from providing products that hide the workings behind a nice pleasant facade.
Symantec the guys who run the Norton brand are masters at this with many successful products like Norton anti virus and system works to name just a few, but just occasionally there is a subject that no matter how hard you try is just not meant to be simplified.
Ok so you're thinking why would I even need to consider a firewall, that's something for big companies to deal with right? Well yes sort of but as you spend more time on the web the risk of problems increases.
I'll take my web use as an example, when I had a dial up pay by the minute connection I'd dial up pick up email check a few sites and get off as quickly as possible. Then along came free evening and weekend calls soon I'd happily sit online for 2 or 3 hours a night, now with un-metered access that's more like most days for 4 – 5 hrs.
So I'm a net addict but why should that cause me to be at any higher risk from those nasty people out there? It's a law of averages if you sit on the Net for hours on end the chances of your machine being looked at increase.
While the vast majority of Net users are normal law abiding types there are some (mainly kids) who just enjoy trying to get into peoples machines. You've all seen the film "War games" well its not quite that glamorous, far more likely to be a kid in Burnley sitting in his bedroom with some freely available software.
Most "Hackers" won't even bother with home PC's they're trying to save the world by uncoverin
g security loopholes in banks and government systems (some would say this is a public service). But these so called "script kiddies" are like burglars who break in and empty all the drawers only to take the CD player In other words it's the thrill of breaking in rather than the actual gains to be had.
Also you like me might be keeping a little eye on ADSL or other high speed internet links, yep I know you're waiting for the price to drop too! But when you do sign up for one of these "permanently on" services you will be assigned a static IP address which makes it even easier to find you on the NET.
So you need a firewall, not a hardware firewall they really are still in the large company domain, instead there are a multitude of companies offering software firewalls to keep out unwanted visitors.
They do this by filtering all incoming and outgoing data using a set of rules, the software company normally creates these with some scope for you to add your own, for new software that might need to access the web.
Norton's Internet security offering is often linked to other Norton products like anti virus and system works giving a single user interface for all products, this is the sort of thing that Norton is good at.
They break down each job performed by the firewall into 4 sections that can be set separately.
or no each time you go to a new site.
Privacy on the net almost sounds like a joke, it's a bit like going clubbing and hoping no one will see you! But you don't have to give out personal information like your email address if you don't want to. This section allows you to block the release of information to sites until you allow it, it is quite common for a browser to give your email address to sites upon request unless you block it, again Norton offers a tick box to set this protection.
Within this screen you can also enter confidential information you never wish to give out. For example you phone number, if stored in Norton's directory if you try and fill in a form with your phone number it will ask you if you are sure you want to send this via the web.
A very useful little reminder, I store my credit card details so it always prompts me to check for a secure site before making a transaction.
This is a section I don't use (please don't ask why...lol) it allows you to block specific websites or types of site, Norton can use live update to pick up the latest list of URL's from Symantec's central database. Of course all the sections can be password protected to keep little fingers away from the settings!
This section has never really worried me until I read about the DooYoo pop ups upsetting everyone, luckily Norton was blocking them and in fact all of the banner adverts. This is great if you don't want to be bombarded with ads while surfing. It is also a good way of increasing your surfing speed as you don't have to download the adverts on each page, over a long session this can add up to a significant amount.
Norton makes each of these sections easy with a slider for overall settings i.e. low or medium or tick boxes and drop down lists for individual items.
And there in lies my problem with Norton,
protecting your PC requires you to learn a little about firewalls and the Internet, with a little knowledge you might want to delve deeper into Norton and the "advanced!" settings.
There's nothing to be scared of as Norton is based on a very well respected product called "Atguard" and all Symantec did was buy AtGuard and bolt on a simple GUI (graphical user interface).
After the initial set-up of sliders and click boxes you then progress to work directly with the firewall and create your own rules, this however is far from simple.
The advanced settings are much more like windows explorer and look quite daunting at first but all you have to remember is that a firewall is just a list of rules.
For example rule 1 may be allow Internet explorer to use the Internet, rule 2 might be to block any other programmes using the Internet. So these two rules together would allow you to surf freely but would stop someone using a chat programme or email.
Norton tries to help you here by auto creating rules, so if a new programme tries to access the web it will inform you and ask you to create a rule. You can then choose to allow or block this and give the rule a name so you can find it in future.
This got me thinking and after a few nights of playing around in the depths of the Firewall I came to an astounding conclusion, of the 176 rules that Norton had created I needed only 30!
The vast majority are for blocking Trojans (a form of virus) from entering your computer, each one is set to block a different port and has a name like "hack attack Trojan" I created just one rule to block all connections inbound or outbound and moved all the programmes I wanted to allow access above this new rule.
This allowed me to remove over a hundred rules for blocking Trojans, without all these rules to process my Internet processing speed increased noticeably.
So why all the rules?
c in me says it's a marketing ploy so when you look into the firewall settings you can see just how many nasties you are protected from.
This is just one example of an excellent product "AtGuard" which did need an improved front end being over simplified for use by punters that are too lazy to learn a little about the net before diving in.
That for me is the real crux of the matter, like many things in life you get out what you put in, sure you can create a website using Microsoft front page but at least they have the ability to view the HTML and start to learn about what you are doing. Norton's products hide all the nitty gritty from you and leave you with sliders and tick boxes and when you do open the bonnet so to speak you're confronted with a standard windows environment some jargon and quite a mess to clear up!
So what other choices are there, I'd recommend Zone alarm its free to personal users and is as effective as Norton if not quite as user friendly at first, but with a little effort you'll be writing your own firewall rules in no time.
Please don't get me wrong Norton is a good product but for £30 it's squarely aimed at those who just want to set a few sliders and forget it's there. It will work and will protect your machine on the web but by spending a little time increasing your knowledge there are other products you will be able to use for free!
www.symantec.co.uk (Norton's Website)
www.zonelabs.com (Info and downloads)
www.grc.com (An independent guide to web security)