Norton Security 2015 Review: One Size Fits All

A good antivirus program is a critical part of any PC software suite, and one of the best options is Norton Security 2015, which includes a sleek, well-organized interface, a top-notch antivirus engine and many other security and privacy features.

For 2015, Norton has radically simplified its product line. It once sold three different tiers of Windows products at different prices, ranging from basic protection to an advanced suite, but Norton now has just one product: Norton Security. With a list price of $80 per year (significant discounts are available online), it protects five devices running Windows, OS X, iOS or Android. For an extra $10, Norton Security with Backup adds 25GB of cloud storage and five more device licenses.

Setup and interface

To install Norton Security 2015, I went to the company's website, plugged in an activation code and started the download. The entire process required a computer restart, but took just a bit longer than 10 minutes. 

Norton Security's interface consists of a white rectangle with green accents, which change to yellow if it needs an update, and to red if it detects a serious threat. The protection status is also spelled out in words.

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Four rectangular icons on the main interface demarcate Norton Security's feature groups: Security, Identity, Performance and More. Clicking any icon slides the entire icon row aside so that new buttons, keyed to particular icons, appear. It's a sleek, well-animated look befitting Norton's concise and simple interface design.

LiveUpdate, keyed to the Security icon, manages Norton Security 2015's updates. The History button, also keyed to Security, shows a record of the computer's security-related activities -- not only results of malware scans, but also user logins and Wi-Fi connections. An Advanced button reveals the status of antivirus, firewall and identity protections.

Overall, the clean, easy-to-use interface conveys appropriate seriousness without feeling heavy or overbearing, and explains Norton Security 2015's features in clear language.

Protection Features

Like most modern antivirus programs, Norton Security 2015 identifies malware by comparing suspicious files to a cloud-based database of known malware definitions, which no longer need to be downloaded. Norton Security also analyzes suspicious behavior, identifying malware threats early.

By default, Norton Security 2015 performs malware scans weekly, offering regular protection without making users wade through settings. The interface for scheduling scans is a bit buried, but can be found in both the Security section and the Settings menu at the top right of the main interface.

Additional Tools

The Security section holds four subsections: Run Scans, LiveUpdate, History and Advanced. Run Scans, naturally, launches on-demand malware scans. It can also scan your Facebook Wall for malicious links, or run a "Power Eraser" that searches your hard drive for the adware or browser hijackers typical antivirus scans ignore. (Norton warns that Power Eraser may accidentally flag and delete legitimate programs.)

Another scan, Norton Insight, identifies "trusted" files that won't be examined during Quick Scans, while Diagnostic Report looks for items that might improve your PC's performance — it flagged several startup items on my PC that could be removed.

The Identity section contains four tools: Identity Safe, ID Settings, Statistics and Password Generator. The first tool stores sensitive information, such as passwords and financial information, in encrypted cloud storage. Data can be entered by hand or imported from password managers. If you install the Norton Toolbar browser plugin for Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome or Microsoft Internet Explorer, the data will autocomplete in Web page form fields.

ID Settings manages Norton Security 2015's background protections, such as anti-phishing protection and website safety ratings, both of which require Norton Toolbar. Statistics shows how frequently you've used Norton Security 2015's various features, while Password Generator launches a Web page to create random, strong passwords.

Back on the Norton Security 2015 main interface, the Performance icon leads to four more tools. Optimize Disk cleans up your hard drive. File Cleanup finds files that can be deleted. Startup Manager adds and removes programs from the Startup folder to improve boot times. Graphs displays a timeline of activities Norton Security 2015 has performed, similar to the History section but more visually oriented.

Most of the Performance tools duplicate Windows system tools or free optimizers such as CCleaner, but Norton puts them in one place and makes them easier to use.

The More Norton section of the main interface contains Add Devices, Manage, Identity Safe, Family and Backup. The first two handle all devices protected by your Norton Security software, such as Macs, other PCs or iOS and Android devices. Identity Safe launches the feature of the same name from the Identity section, while Backup simply urges you to spend the extra $10 for Norton Security with Backup.

Parental Controls Separate

Norton Family, the parental-control feature, requires installation of a browser extension upon each device children use. Norton Family can be accessed from a Web browser or a mobile phone, reveals children's browsing histories, search histories and Facebook usage, and can also place time limits on Internet use.

For an extra $50 per year, Norton Family Premier incorporates features found in parental-control mobile apps, such as displaying children's text messages and, for kids with Android devices, location tracking and lists of installed apps. It also lists children's YouTube and Hulu views on PCs.

Security Performance

The most important part of any antivirus program is malware detection. To assess Norton Security 2015's capabilities, we turned to AV-TEST, a German lab that regularly assesses antivirus software.

In August 2014, AV-TEST found that Norton detected 100 percent of the well-known malware samples thrown at it, comfortably above the industry average of 98 percent. Against newly discovered "zero-day" malware, Norton also scored 100 percent, better than the industry average of 96 percent.

This places Norton Security 2015 in line with Bitdefender Internet Security 2015 and TrendMicro Titanium Maximum Security 2015. Among Norton's other competitors, Kaspersky Internet Security 2015 scored 100 percent on widespread malware and 99 percent on zero-day malware, and AVG Internet Security 2014 scored 97 percent in both tests.

Two caveats: AV-TEST's August evaluations were performed on Windows 7, whereas this review was done on a Windows 8 machine. Because Norton Security 2015 was not yet available, AV-TEST examined Norton Internet Security 2014. Because both programs use the same antivirus engine, the scores should be comparable.

System Impact

We tested Norton Security 2015 on an Acer Aspire E1 laptop running 64-bit Windows 8 with a Core i3 processor and 4 GB of RAM — a deliberately midrange machine upon which any performance issues would be clearly apparent. We ran Norton Security 2015 against both the benchmarking software PCMark7, and a custom test we created in OpenOffice.

Our laptop scored a 2191 in PCMark7 before any antivirus programs were installed.

As Norton Security 2015 ran a full scan that dropped to 1829; during a quick scan, the score was 2133. Both are very good scores: The Full scan score places Norton below Webroot in terms of performance impact, but higher than comparable products from Bitdefender, Kaspersky and TrendMicro, though Bitdefender’s quick scan score does beat Norton's.

The OpenOffice test yielded comparable results. Without an antivirus program installed, the Acer Aspire E1 completed it in 8 minutes, 39 seconds. While a Norton Security 2015 full scan was running, this increased to 10:47, and during a quick scan, the time was 9:17.

According to this test, Bitdefender beat Norton in both full and quick scan scores. Norton also tied with Trend Micro's full scan and lost to its quick scan. Norton did still beat out Kaspersky in our OpenOffice score.

Bottom Line

Norton Security 2015 has a strong selection of features packed into a tight, elegant and fluid interface. We particularly like the range of helpful scans and the Identity Safe feature for securely storing passwords and sensitive information.

Yet an intermediate-tier antivirus package in this price range should have family protection built-in. Other absent features, such as hardened browsers or "rescue" partitions, can be found on some inexpensive "starter" antivirus products, and most of Norton's competitors offer discounts for installation on one PC instead of the standard three.

Norton Security 2015 offers seamless, pain-free protection, but so do rival products that cost less, especially when fewer PCs are involved. Because of its generous licensing arrangements, Norton Security 2015 offers the best value to a family, or an individual, with more than three devices to protect across multiple platforms.

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    Your comment
  • I have been receiving numerous emails from a company sending SPAM email. In the past I have used the Norton Antispam system that comes with Norton 360 to place it in the SPAM folder. On Monday February 16, 2015, I received another email from this same SPAM sender that ended up in the inbox, so I figured I would contact Norton for help at stopping this SPAM because their Antispam software doesn’t seem to be working.
    At approximately 5:00 pm I got on the Norton website service and began a chat with one of the technicians. I was assigned case number 20616027. I did not copy down the name of the tech that was helping me but it was a foreign spelled first and last name. I also informed the tech that ever since I upgraded from Norton Internet Security to Norton 360, my computer takes much longer to start up. The tech said he would help me fix both problems by remotely getting onto my computer. He first worked on the SPAM issue. He spent a long time doing this and it almost seemed he didn’t know what he was doing, or had to read up on it or something. After completing the issue he worked to speed up my computer. He said it was a Microsoft issue but he would fix it for me. He went in and deleted my Temp Files and then went into some Norton system folders and added “OLD” in front of them. I was thinking this was his way to fix some Norton Issues. He then had me reboot my computer. When it booted up it didn’t work any better. The tech told me it was the best he could do and to contact Microsoft, because it was a Microsoft issue. I disagreed because this problem only occurred when I upgraded to Norton 360.
    When I went onto Norton 360 it was not working and came up with error messages that said I needed to erase Norton 360 and reinstall it. The Tech had managed to screw up Norton 360 with all the things that he did. I was very upset. So I got back onto the Norton Website to chat with another tech which I gave my case number 20616027. He told me he had to get on my computer remotely and remove Norton 360 and reinstall it. It took a long time but he finally fixed my computer. In fact after the reinstallation my computer was working as fast and therefore like I expected, the issue was with Norton and not Microsoft.
    On Tuesday February 17, 2015 I received a call that came up “Unknown” on my cell phone. A guy asked for me by my first name. He said he was calling because he wanted to help fix the SPAM issue I was having. Right then I suspected something was not right because Norton Techs worked on it the day before and they are the only ones that knew about the email SPAM problem. This person even referred to the email address the SPAM was sent from. In addition I gave Norton my cell phone number for the first time, so it is interesting this person called my cell.
    I decided to play along. I said it would be great if they could help me. I asked what number he was calling me from. He said 844-999-9666. I asked what the name of his company was. He said “FIX BY TECH”. He even spelled out the name. I asked him what his name was and he said “Andrew Parker” which he also spelled out. He had a foreign accent so I figured that was not his real name. I then asked him how much this would cost. He said between $50 and $150 to fix. I said that would be good, what do I need to do? He asked if I could I go to my computer and turn it on so he could fix the problem? I said I could not do it right now, but I will do it and call him. He said if you call that number ask for Samantha who was the person in charge and she would get my computer fixed.
    I have a neighbor that had AVG Security on their computer but somehow contacted the “cryptolocker" virus a few weeks ago. I told them they should have purchased Norton Internet Security or Norton 360 to protect their computer. They purchased the program and installed it on their computer to try and fix the virus issue. It may have been too late for them to do, but regardless they contacted Norton for help. A technician worked on their computer but could not solve the problem. Interesting enough they received a call the next day from someone that said they could fix the computer. The Caller ID number was 631-353-4127. They said that Norton could not fix their problem but they could for $100 and wanted to know if they should proceed. When my neighbor got suspicious of the call and started asking questions, the person hung up.
    How are these people getting access to Norton Customers? I have lost all trust in Norton support. I believe there is criminal activity going on within this company. I contacted Norton and they are investigating but I wanted your readers to be aware of this issue. If you look on line you will see other people around the country are being contacted by these scam artists after talking to Norton Support.
  • The second caller was definitely a tech-support scam. These have become very common in the past year, and mainly come from India. I doubt that Norton or its parent company Symantec are directly involved, but it's possible that someone at a Norton outsourced service center in India is feeding lists of service calls to a scam-call center.
  • I agree. Norton may have hired this company for support but they should be on top of these companies and are still responsible. They should have at least offered everyone that reported the scam some protection since these people now have my cell phone, name, address, etc. On top of that these people still call a few times every month. Norton had done nothing even though they now agree it is their fault. My only resort is now to file a lawsuit.
  • AV-Test Certification Devalued

    I think this should be duly noted by readers of these articles. You're basing protection on testing done by a lab that has been known for lowered standards; and this has been known for a while. I wouldn't recommend anything based on AV-Test recommendations, for this reason alone.

    As I've said before, while I am biased AGAINST Kaspersky, they do know their stuff. If they say one thing, I don't take it lightly. My linked blog post should not be taken lightly.
  • Who says AV-TEST's standards have been lowered?
  • Click the link in my last post..
  • I did. You seem to like AV-Comparatives. That's fine, but that lab doesn't evaluate as many products, or evaluate products as frequently, as AV-TEST. We can't limit ourselves to only those products that AV-Comparatives looks at.
  • So you're saying that a post from a Kaspersky guy is proof of me being biased toward AVC? Do you know why I prefer AVC? Do you realise that could easily change? I go where the reports are comprehensive, and provide actual testing results. That's why I prefer AVC. I have no affiliation, and no bias towards them, outside of the fact that they release proper reports for their testing. They're the only lab that releases comprehensive test results, which is why I prefer them.

    Before AV-Test lowered their standards, I would have been behind them just as much. They have a much easier user interface, and cater to the lesser experienced home user. Why wouldn't I prefer that over the fairly complicated reports released by AVC?

    Also, AVC does provide private testing. If Tom's Hardware wanted AVC to do a comprehensive review for them, to help make a more informed review (for the users who read the article), then hire them. I've inquired abotu them testing products for me, and it doesn't cost too much. For the public test results, they release a small batch of testing publicly based on the person/company who sends them software, and requests the results to be released publicly. I even posted their email replies I received in another thread, which covers most of this. They're a very transparent testing lab, and are happy to disclose whatever they can without breaking their NDAs. They also have a rapid email response time, compared to most labs. Send them an email, and you'll see what I mean.

    I follow the numbers, not blanket statements... which is not currently in favour of AV-Test.
  • What post from a Kaspersky guy? And I didn't say you were biased towards AVC. But I am still curious about how AV-TEST lowered its standards. I am not doubting you -- I just need to see the evidence.
  • If you read that link, then you read the post from Eugene Kaspersky. I was half distracted, otherwise I would have said the name lol. This is what happens when you post on here while you're at work lol.

    And yes, that post came from a reputable source. He knows what he's talking about, so it's up to you to take it or leave it. All I'm saying is that blog post about AV-Test isn't something that should be taken lightly. If TH wants to ignore it, then that's not my call... but it definitely is ignoring something of importance. Finding evidence of what changed at AV-Test? That's something you would have to consult AV-Test about directly. I don't see why I have to provide the proof, when it's a single email away for you.