Norton's Internet Security 2000 software encompasses Norton AntiVirus, and monitors the Internet to help protect users' security and privacy. The software provides a firewall between a computer and the Internet in order to filter connections and data transmissions, so that unauthorized remote parties cannot view files from the user's computer, and information cannot leave the user's computer without his or her permission. The software prevents ActiveX and Java programs from running without the user's knowledge, and prohibits confidential information from being stored on insecure Web sites. Internet Security 2000 can block users from accessing secure sites where they may be asked for personal information, and can block cookies and other information a browser may report to Web sites.
We were pleased with the program's modularity and multiple options. A single computer can be set with different settings for each user who logs on. Users can choose from three different levels of security and privacy, depending on their individual needs. An ad-blocking option prevents most pictorial ads from being displayed, saving download time and preventing distractions. A parental control option lets parents or teachers restrict access to any or all of a number of Web site categories, such as crime, violence, gambling, entertainment, or interactive chats.
We found the security and privacy features to work well, and function smoothly. The software alerts us to free updates of virus protection, and an event log keeps records of every function that Internet Security has performed. A statistics window shows sets of statistics, such as the number of sites blocked and the number of bytes processed. The system is easily customizable, letting a user create his or her own rules for the firewall. And using a supervisor account, it's easy to set up multiple password-protected user accounts with varying levels of restriction.
However, the parental controls and ad blocking options suffer from a few little problems. The parental control feature is based on an extensive list of restricted sites, which is updated regularly. However, no list can ever be completely thorough. Even with the parental controls on, we were able to access objectionable sites easily by searching in other languages or linking from other sites. In addition, certain perfectly decent sites were blocked with no explanation given: for example, the software blocked access to the Amazon.com review of a book by Oscar Wilde, without mentioning what standard the inoffensive site had supposedly breached. However, in most cases the parental control dialog box allows users to send e-mail if they feel a site has been misdiagnosed or overlooked.
The ad-blocking feature generally works to eliminate banner ads, but in some cases it causes other site features to disappear, as well. Visiting one site, we grew frustrated at being unable to find a search command, only later to realize that the search box had disappeared along with the blocked ads. It was difficult to decide whether to eliminate ads at the expense of occasional crucial Web site components.
Nevertheless, Norton Internet Security 2000 would likely make a valuable addition to otherwise unprotected school computers. It operates constantly to protect a PC, but rarely interferes with normal computer use. The software is easy to install and operate, and its virus protection can set administrators' minds at ease.
This article originally appeared in the 06/01/2000 issue of THE Journal.