Norton Security Standard for Mac review

Norton is one of the oldest names in antivirus and some of us at Macworld first encountered its products over 30 years ago. The current Mac app comes in a variety of retail arrangements, although with the same core desktop and mobile apps at the centre. Here, we review Norton Security Standard for Mac. For more security reviews, visit our round-up of the best antivirus for Mac 2018.

The difference is how many devices you want to use it on. Norton Security Standard protects one device for a £49.99/USD$69.99 yearly subscription fee, although at the time of writing this was discounted to £24.99/$39.99 for the first year.

If you’re in the UK, click here to see all of the pricing options and to buy Norton Security.

For US readers, click here.

Norton Security Standard for Mac Installation

Installation was relatively quick. We were prompted whether we wanted to join the Norton Community Watch scheme, which means your Mac automatically sends data to help the “fight again cybercrime”. There’s a privacy policy link below to explain what data gets shared, but we just didn’t fancy joining in any event.

Then we were prompted to install the kernel module, which required our password be entered, and then saw the expected warning from macOS about how a third-party kernel extension had been installed and how we had to authorise it in System Preferences. This is protection against kernel modules is a standard feature of macOS but the installer didn’t warn us about it. It would be alarming to newcomers.

Once we’d installed the app and rebooted we were prompted to install two Safari plugins: Safe Web stops you visiting bad sites, and Identity Safe is a password manager.

Norton Security Standard for Mac App

As with most of the antivirus apps we’ve reviewed, the only sign Norton’s running day-to-day is a menu bar icon. Clicking this opens the app although you can also double-click the app in the Applications list.

Norton offers four ways to defend against viruses. “Automatic” translates as “always on” protection and is activated by default. Scheduled scanning was turned off out of the box, probably in favour of Idle Scanning, which is activated by default. As its name suggests this triggers scans during quiet periods when the Mac isn’t being used.

Norton says that if you should subsequently use the Mac while the scan is happening it will temporarily pause until it detects an idle period again. This should stop any annoying system slowdowns, the kind that give antivirus apps a bad name. One tip is to click the settings icon and change the setting that says Norton will always show the result of a scan, even if nothing is found.

This is the default setting but switching to showing a results dialog box only when an infection is found will make for a much less-intrusive background scanner.

As soon as we’d updated to the latest definitions, we kicked off a full virus scan. Alas, the scanner doesn’t show any progress, so we had no idea when it might end. Instead it just shows total files scanned.

The scan was reasonably quick and it deleted eight of the ten malware test files (KoobFace, Clapzok, Renepo, Inqtana, FileCoder, Macarena, WeaponX, and MineSteal) while it quarantined the ninth (BadBunny). This means it missed XcodeGhost, although when we mounted its DMG file and scanned it separately Norton identified three threats.

When we recreated our malware samples by unzipping them from password-protected archives, Norton caught each within a few seconds. A notification popped up saying the virus had been deleted or quarantined, once again in the case of BadBunny.

OUR VERDICT

There’s a lot to like in Norton. We liked how self-contained and fuss-free it was, which included the settings dialog boxes, which offered just a handful of common-sense tweaks. There wasn’t any bolted-on extras either, aside from a clean-up tool that claims to remove detritus from your system.

If you turn off the summary dialog box for idle scanning, as mentioned earlier, then Norton should also be happy just to stay in the background.

Our tests results were good, although we have to note how these are not scientific tests and could be affected by a number of factors.That leaves just the price which is, quite frankly, pretty high at just shy of £50 a year. However, it’s currently on sale and a 30-day trial is available if you want to get a taste of what Norton can do.

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