Symantec’s New Mac Security Suite: A Different Side of Norton

By  |  Thursday, December 18, 2008 at 11:54 am

nortonformacLast week, I published the results of a little survey about Mac security that showed that the respondents, at least, are a pretty blasé bunch compared to their Windows-using friends. With the exception of firewall software–which comes built into OS X–the vast majority of survey respondents said they’re not running security software on their Macs, and don’t spend much time fretting about threats.

Symantec hopes that there’s a critical mass of Mac users who are security-minded enough to make its new Norton Internet Security 4 for Mac successful. The suite, which was announced today, is a Mac edition of a prominent Windows package. But Symantec has intelligently shifted the product’s emphasis when bringing it to OS X.

On Windows, security suites are primarily about real threats that might attack real Windows users: how to prevent them and how to remove them if they do get through. But there are still only a handful of known Mac viruses and spyware apps, compared to the thousands that target Windows. So Internet Security for the Mac is more focused on providing users with information about data traveling to and from their computers, as well as protecting against threats that are less platform-specific, such as phishing attempts.

Norton for the Mac does include anti-virus, but it plays up its firewall more. It’s integrated with Symantec’s DeepSight Threat Management Systems, which updates the firewall’s rules at least daily to reflect new threats. And Symantec is aiming it at folks who use firewalls not only to defend themselves against bad guys but simply to get a handle on which applications are phoning home from their computers and transferring data back and forth.

Symantec also includes anti-phishing features for Safari and Firefox–which are probably less essential now that Safari has joined Firefox in offering built-in phishing protection. But Symantec says its implementation is more comprehensive than the browsers’ standard phishing fighters.

Over the past few years, Norton products had developed a reputation for sporting in-your-face user interfaces and bogging down PC performance. But Symantec focused on making the new versions of its Windows products into better PC citizens, and it says that the Mac users it talked to asked for a suite that was essentially invisible in operation unless they asked it for information. It says it’s tried to provide such a package.

Norton Internet Security for the Mac is $79.99, including one year of updates. (That’s $20 more than Symantec charges for the Windows edition; I’m not sure what the official explanation is for the disparity and have asked the company about it.) An $89.99 version bundles the Mac and Windows versions, so folks who run both OSes on their Macs can get dual protection in one box.

In the end, security software still feels like it’s far more optional on the Mac than on Windows boxes. (Symantec acknowledges the rarity of Mac-specific attacks and says it’s not going to use scare tactics to pitch the new product to Macheads.) If you’re reading this and use a Mac, I’m curious: Are you going to at least give a thought to this security product, or do you think you’re safe enough with the security measures built into OS X and applications that run in it?


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6 Comments For This Post

  1. Tom Borowski Says:

    Wow, 80 bucks for a Norton product who’s benefits are pretty sketchy. Little Snitch is an excellent firewall for outgoing connections and costs $29.95. And anyone should be using a firewall – hardware or software – for incoming connections anyway; so why install another one?

    And antivirus protection? I’ve never used any on neither Windows nor the Mac. It just gives users a false sense of security when instead they should be aware and alert of possible dangers.

    And Norton saying that their phishing protection is “more comprehensive” than Safari’s or Firefox’s… do they deliver any hard facts to support that claim? These anti-fishing measures (the green thingy next to the address bar in Firefox) is pretty much useless anyway, because most “normal” users don’t know what it means.

    No box of software, be it from Symantec or any other developer, will prevent people from getting their machines infected. Actually, I bet those that install anti-whatever software are even more prone to get infected because they think they’re safe and start doing stupid things…


  2. Alex Says:

    I buy and implement solutions based on how much of my risk they will reduce, compared to my risk tolerance.

    It’s not apparent, as a Mac user, A). if the current risk I have is outside my tolerance, and B). how much this product actually reduces risk to me from various threat communities.

    Therefore – non-starter.

  3. Marc Says:

    Does it slow down your PC to a crawl like the Windows version?

    Norton comes with most Windows PCs, which is probably why a lot of folk think Windows is slow and full of annoying popups.

    When I worked for DSGi we were targeted to flog Norton for £30 with at least 50% of PCs. I used to think it was like a car salesman insisting on attacking a caravan to a new sports car.

  4. Tom Says:

    Software by Symantec will never occupy another computer of ours. I couldn’t stand their invasive crap code on our windows boxes and was glad when we went to a totally OS X shop.

  5. hagge Says:

    wont install until there is a clear reason and even then probably something cheaper. Dont see the value added really. One vendor mentioned that one reason for people who are alot in contact with windows-people would be not helping to spread viruses by mistake but id rather figure out how to virus-filter outbound mail.

  6. Tim Says:

    The BEST firewall is to ‘unplug’ your router if you think you’re ‘under attack’

    I use a hardware firewall as well as OS X firewall and an anti-virus prog and thats it….don’t think I need anything else.