Norton AV 11 for Mac likely to boost OS X Leopard adoption

The release by Symantec Corp of anti-virus software product designed for Apple’s new Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard is likely to further boost the operating system’s desirability, according to a Canadian technology analyst.

Symantec’s Norton AntiVirus 11 for Leopard enhances an already well crafted operating system (OS) and gets rid of barriers against migration to the Apple platform, said Carmi Levy, research analyst and senior vice-president of Toronto’s AR Communications.

“The timing couldn’t have been better planned,” he said

Availability of an additional security layer can only boost the popularity of Leopard which has outshined rival OS Vista from Microsoft, Levy added.

The analyst, however, said there are other vendors that offer Leopard-ready security products. Among the popular providers are McAfee, Sophos, Indigo and ClamXav, a freeware product.

“Enterprise users always demand the assurance of security. When a trusted name comes out with a product like this, it can only do well for Leopard,” Levy said.

Like other AV software products, the Norton AntiVirus 11 automatically detects and removes viruses and worms in addition to scanning and cleaning downloaded files and attachments, but Symantec said they incorporated several refinements into the new version.

Norton AntiVirus 11 is equipped with what the company calls a “just-in-time” security feature which continually updates the software product from Symantec’s global security network, according to Mike Romo, product manager of the Mac team of Symantec Corp. in Canada. There is no need for the user to punch in any update commands.

“Consultations with Mac users have revealed one very important thing — most of them want to install a software product and forget about it,” said Romo.

He said Norton AV 11 is designed to run less obtrusively than previous models so it enables users to carryout online activities with minor interruptions. For instance, the product uses less pop-up alert windows and scans for threats “behind the scenes.”

Users can also hit a “snooze button” that reschedules virus scans for a more convenient time in case the computer is being used for activities such as watching a movie, downloading a large file or conducting online communication.

The software also uses a signature-based threat prevention system to block the installation of virus and malware when e-mail is opened or when multi-media files or and software are downloaded.

Because the system recognizes “suspicious patterns and behaviour” of a file, threats can be blocked even if they are not contained in the latest issued patch.

This feature, however, is not unique to Norton, said Levy. “Signature-based protection is very effective. Other vendors employ similar methods of screening e-mails and file downloads.”

The perception of Macs being relatively immune to attacks may be coming to an end.

“Although Macs traditionally have a lower infection rate that PCs, this trend could be changing,” said Romo.

Levy of AR Communications agrees. “Some surveys indicate that Mac adoption grows at more than nine per cent annually. As the machines become more popular they become ideal targets to hackers.”

Mac users, Romo said, could easily receive macro viruses from friends or co-workers using a PC. Macs might seem immune to some threats but they can still pass on malicious code to other machines via e-mail, instant messenger or Web links.

To address the growth of multi-platform computing environments, Norton AV 11 scans for both Mac and PC vulnerabilities, viruses and macro viruses, said Romo.

The estimated retail price for Norton AV 11 for Leopard is US$49.95. The product includes a one-year subscription to Symantec’s protection updates.

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