Symantec takes Norton mobile and into the cloud

Symantec Corp. is targeting the tablet market and extending its security offerings to the cloud with the release of its Norton 2012 product line.

Along with the updated versions of Norton Internet Security and Norton AntiVirus,Symantec has just unveiled a slateof new products aimed squarely atthe growing mobile market. One of them, Norton Tablet Security,features privacy, anti-virus, anti-malware and data theft protectionfor Android tablets. Available now in the U.S. and in Canada later thisautumn, the product also has a Web-based anti-theft system allowingusers to remotely lock, locate and wipe lost or stolen PCs, laptops andAndroid mobile devices.

“Even if your device doesn’t have GPS or a data connection, we canstill determine where it is using wi-fi,” says Jordan Blake, seniorproduct manager at Symantec in Mountainview, Calif.

Tablet Security will be available for other mobile operating systemslater, but Symantec started with Android because “that’s kind of wherewe’re seeing the most value to users and the most malware, so that’swhere we’ve gotten things kicked off,” Jordan says.

The move into tablet security is part ofSymantec’s Norton Everywhere initiative catering to the explosivepopularity of mobile devices like smartphones, tablets, netbooks andultrabooks. Ten per cent of adults online say they have experiencedcybercrime on their mobile phones, according to figures gathered bySymantec.

“Norton customers are no longer really focused on just using their PCsand we needed to reflect this reality,” Jordan says. “We want to offerthe same protection on mobile devices that you would want on your PC.”

Anti-theft tools
Also geared to mobile security is NortonAnti-Theft. It features the same lock, locate and wipe capabilities asthe tablet security system, and both systems also include Sneak Peek,which allows users to remotely activate the Web cam of a lost or stolenPC, laptop or mobile device to see where the device is or who isoperating it. Norton Anti-Theft is still in beta as a free PC laptopdownload but should hit the market officially in late 2011 or early2012.

Symantec is riding onto the cloud with Norton Management, which allowsNorton customers to manage their Norton security subscriptions andsettings remotely through Web access.

“This will appeal to anyone who manages security on more than onedevice,” Jordan says.

Symantec is riding onto the cloud with Norton Management, which allowsNorton customers to manage their Norton security subscriptions andsettings remotely through Web access.

“This will appeal to anyone who manages security on more than onedevice,” Jordan says.

Symantec is also extending its existing Identity Safe service to thecloud, making the password protection system remotely accessiblethrough the Web. The service is used to protect and manage passwordsand financial data for online banking, e-commerce and other high-riskWeb transactions.

Another mobile offering is Norton Online Family, giving parents theability to remotely view and manage their children’s online access. Nowout of beta, the product is available as a free app for Android and iOSdevices.

New security, privacy issues
Although the 2012 product line is designed to extend Norton protectionto customers on the go, one security expert says the move into mobileaccess could actually open up new security and privacy concerns.

“Because a tablet is connected almost all the time to the Internet orto a network…software installed on tablets is potentially capturingsome of that information that people are inputting without theirconsent. So the concern there is we need to monitor the software thatruns in the background on tablets to ensure only authorized programsare running at all times,” says Claudiu Popa, president and chiefsecurity officer at Informatica Security Corp., aToronto firm specializing in computer security and privacy consulting.

The ability to remotely activate a lost or stolen device’s Web camthrough Norton Anti-Theft raises the possibility that a hacker couldalso use the Web cam to secretly spy on its owner after they’veinstalled the Norton product for legitimate security purposes, Popasays.

“The issue with anti-theft tools is always (that) you want to strike acertain balance between control of these tools by authorized users andan inability for unauthorized users to alter the configuration,” hesays.

Popa cites a recent case when Vancouver’s Absolute Software used itsanti-theft system to take screenshots of an unsuspecting Ohio teachernaked. When the female teacher bought a used laptop, she didn’t know ithad actually been stolen. To help the rightful owner track down thecomputer, Absolute used the anti-theft Web cam software alreadyinstalled on it to take pictures of the laptop’s new user (theteacher). After the Web cam situation came to light, the teacher fileda breach of privacy lawsuit against various defendants, includingAbsolute.  

“The first bit of security you might want to take into account whenpurchasing a device is to wipe the OS and start from scratch,”Symantec’s Jordan advises when asked if Norton Anti-Theft could be usedto compromise privacy.

“Could this theoretically be used for nefarious purposes? I suppose itcould. But again, it’s really a tool for users. They can decide whetherit makes sense for them. It’s not something we’re indicating in alljurisdictions will be good enough to convict a thief.”

The remote Web cam feature could be helpful, for example, if you thinkyou just left your phone in a taxi, since all you have to do isactivate the feature and see if the inside of a cab pops up on screen,he adds.

Speed and performance
Popa wonders if the mix-and-match addition of so many new mobilefeatures at once will slow the performance of Norton customers’computers.

“In past versions (of Norton), both home and enterprise users have seenperformance impacted by up to 50 percent by using this software. In ourworld, something that slows down your computer by that much is initself considered to be an availability (security) breach,” Popa says.

But Symantec says its own tests show Norton 2012 is faster than the2011 version, with 30 percent faster scans, 17 percent faster boot timeand 24 percent faster file copying. Jordan acknowledges “there was atime” when past Norton products were slower than more recent versions,but says those days are history.

“We don’t want to go back there. It’s a very competitive environment.There are plenty of free programs out there and we want to stay headand shoulders above them,” Jordan says.  

Norton Internet Security 2012 ranked first in overall testing of 13security suites done in August by PassMark Software and AV-Comparatives,with other big names BitDefender, Trend Micro and McAfee coming in the bottom three.That’s an improvement for Norton on the AV-Comparatives tests of Norton InternetSecurity 2011 in the first quarter of this year. Although thetesters ranked the product first overall, they noted it had a high rateof falsely detecting and blocking legitimate files and Web sites assecurity threats.

Norton Internet Security 2012 will retail for around $79.99 for oneyear of protection for up to three PCs. Norton AntiVirus 2012 will sellfor about $54.99 for one year of protection for one PC. Norton TabletSecurity is available at select U.S. retailers for around $39.99 forone year, with Canadian pricing yet to be announced.

Christine WongChristineWong is a Staff Writer at ITBusiness.ca. Follow her on Twitter,and join in the conversation on the IT BusinessFacebook Page.
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