Symantec Norton Security Premium (2017)

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You absolutely need antivirus protection for your Windows boxes—that's a given. But a full-scale security suite does much more than just protect against the various types of malware. Symantec Norton Security Premium contains virtually every security component you can imagine, and a number of them are Editors' Choice products in their own right. It lets you install Norton security on up to 10 Windows, Android, macOS, and iOS devices. If you need to protect a large collection of diverse devices, look no further.

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A 10-license one-year subscription for Norton Security Premium costs $89.99, and includes 25GB of hosted online backup. Bitdefender Total Security Multi-Device 2017 gives you five licenses for that price, or ten for $10 more. Kaspersky is a little more expensive, with five licenses for $99.99. And for the same price as Norton, McAfee lets you install protection on every device in your household.

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Required Reading
My typical pattern when reviewing a security product line is to start with the standalone antivirus and then summarize the antivirus review as part of my review of the full security suite. If there's an even bigger mega-suite in the mix, I summarize the entry-level suite review. However, I'm going to take a different path this time.

This product has precisely the same excellent security components as Symantec Norton Security Deluxe. These include top-scoring antivirus, award-winning Android security, no-hassle firewall, consistently accurate phishing protection, a full security suite for macOS, and more. The Premium edition adds five more licenses along with parental control and online backup, neither of which is tightly coupled to the suite's other components.

Please read my review of the Deluxe edition first, then come back here for my evaluation of the added Premium features.

Online and Local Backup
Security suite vendors like to promote that their products include online backup—it gives them a nice check mark in the features table. However, all too many of them simply offer a branded version of some partner product that their users could get for free directly from the partner. Check Point ZoneAlarm Extreme Security 2017 offers 5GB of backup space that you could just as easily get directly from IDrive, for example.

Norton's Windows-specific backup component is a completely in-house product, and sells separately for $49.99 per year. PCMag's Max Eddy didn't think much of Norton Online Backup, comparing it unfavorably with other standalone backup services. But compared with backup components in other security suites, it looks pretty good.

The online backup component comes pre-configured with a default backup set that defines what to back up, where to store backed-up files, and when to run the backup. It includes files in and below the Documents folder for each user, but specifically omits possibly massive video files and email files by default. You can edit this backup set to fit your own needs, or create any number of additional backup sets.

The default destination for your backed-up files is Norton's secure online storage, but you can also back up locally. While CD/DVD backup was removed in this edition due to low usage, any other drive that shows up in Windows Explorer is a fair target. That includes local hard drives, remote drives, network drives, and even some cloud storage services. The backup system in Kaspersky Total Security doesn't come with online storage, but you can link it to your Dropbox account.

By default, backup occurs automatically when your computer is idle. That's probably best for ongoing maintenance, but you may want to manually launch the first backup when you're done with your system for the day, as the first time can take a while. Subsequent backups only transmit new and changed files, so they run much faster. You can also schedule a backup set to run on a weekly or monthly schedule. You can also choose to throttle back the bandwidth used for backup, an option that's only needed if you don't choose to back up during idle time.

The restore feature also comes pre-configured with logical defaults. It restores files from the most recent backup (though you can choose another) to their original locations (though you can select a different destination). By default, it waits for you to search out the file or files you want to recover. You can optionally browse all backed-up files, or restore the entire backup set. And you can access your backup sets as if they were local files and folders by opening the Norton Backup Drive in Windows Explorer.

Webroot SecureAnywhere Internet Security Complete also offers 25GB of hosted storage for backing up and syncing files. It keeps up to ten versions of files and lets you create links to securely share backed-up files. BullGuard Premium Protection also lets you share files from its 25GB of online backup. Norton just keeps the latest version, and secure sharing has been dropped in the current version. Few consumers actually used the feature, and it made overall security more complex, according to my Symantec contact.

The fanciest backup system in the world won't help if it never gets used. Norton makes backup almost effortless, which is as it should be.

Parental Control
Your Norton Security Premium subscription also includes Symantec Norton Family Premier, a $49.99 value if purchased separately. Yes, the combined price of Norton Online Backup and Norton Family Premier is greater than the price of this entire suite, and much greater than the $10 you spend to upgrade from Norton Family Delux. That's a great deal.

As with Net Nanny, Qustodio Parental Control 2015, and other modern parental control systems, all configuration and reporting takes place online, with a small client app on each Windows, Android, or iOS device, to handle local monitoring and enforcement of House Rules. Sorry, Mac users, this component isn't for you.

To get started, you log in to your Norton account online and create a profile for each child. The profile includes name, birth year, gender, and an optional photo or avatar. You can also add personal information that you don't want the child to share online. Next, you add a device that the child uses or, if it's a PC, the child's Windows user account. You can install the local Norton Family parental control agent on the current device or email a link. Keep going until you've created a profile for each of your kids; there's no specific limit on the number of child profiles or devices.

With that task out of the way, it's time to define House Rules for each profile. First up is Web Supervision, which manages content filtering. Based on the child's age, Norton selects from the 47 content categories and determines whether to block those categories or just give the child a warning. You can pick your own custom set of categories and choose to block, warn, or just silently monitor. ContentWatch Net Nanny 7 is even more flexible, letting you choose allow, block, or warn separately for each category.

When Norton blocks access to a site, it displays the reason. The child can send parents a message explaining the attempt to visit the site, or report that the site is categorized incorrectly. If a child proceeds to the site despite a warning, parents get notification.

Norton actually checks page content if necessary. I found that it allowed access to a short-story website but blocked its erotic stories. It filters secure (HTTPS) traffic, so kids won't evade it by using a secure anonymizing proxy. And it didn't cave to a simple three-word network command that disconnects some less-clever parental control systems. I couldn't find any sites that should have been blocked but weren't.

Forcing Safe Search has become difficult now that popular search portals enforce use of HTTS. Bitdefender and Trend Micro simply dropped that feature from parental control, though Trend Micro Maximum Security attempts to cover up naughty pictures in search results. Norton has taken a different tack. Search Supervision enforces Safe Search on Ask, YouTube, Google, Bing, and Yahoo. It does so using a browser extension, so a clever child might work around this restriction. Your child can turn off Safe Search and briefly see inappropriate links or pictures until the browser extension turns it on again.

Video Supervision keeps track of the videos your child watches on YouTube or Hulu. Social Media Supervision simply tracks the existence of your child's Facebook account and reports if the child used a spurious age to set up the account, or posted personal information.

All of the components I've mentioned thus far are enabled by default, but Time Supervision is not. Turning this feature on automatically schedules when the child can use the device and sets a daily maximum for screen time, based on the child's age. For example, my imaginary 13-year-old's schedule allowed access from 6 a.m. until 9 p.m. daily, and until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Screen time was capped at two hours for weekdays, five hours on the weekend. If you want to tweak these settings, you must edit each day separately.

You can also choose whether to cut off access or just issue a warning. Kids can check their remaining time by clicking the Norton Family icon in the notification area. There's also an option to send a request for more time. Android devices can still be used after hours, but Norton prevents all app activity other than calling emergency contacts.

Note that time scheduling applies separately to each device the child uses. The equivalent feature in Net Nanny is cross-device, so your kid can't time out on the PC and just switch to Android.

Mobile Parental Control
Three more components become available when you assign an Android device to the child's profile. Android protection is equivalent to Norton Family Parental Control (for Android).

Some mobile parental control systems offer geofencing, meaning you can get notification when your child enters or leaves a specific location. Norton's Location Supervision doesn't do that, but if you enable it the child's device reports its position periodically, and you can view current and past locations on a map.

App Supervision lists all non-default apps installed on the child's Android device. See something you don't like? Just check the box to block use of that app.

I couldn't actively test the advanced Text Supervision feature, because my Android test devices all lack cellular data connection. Here's how it works. In the default Monitored mode, the child can text with any contact that's not specifically blocked. Norton logs all text conversations with unknown contacts. Parents can review the conversations and mark the contact as Blocked or Unmonitored. In Blocked mode, unknowns can't contact your child at all until and unless you mark them as Unmonitored. In Unmonitored mode, all contacts not specifically marked as Blocked are permitted, with no logging.

If your child uses an iOS device, you can still install Norton's parental control, the equivalent of Norton Family Parental Control (for iPhone). However, there's just not much to it.

You do get content filtering, but it only works in the app's internal browser. During installation, the app explains how to set up Restrictions so your child can't use Safari or Chrome, disable Norton, or download other browsers. Once that's done, you get the full power of Web Supervision.

Location Supervision is also available, just as it is on Android. Video Supervision and Search Supervision both work. However, on an iOS device there's no Time Supervision, Mobile App Supervision, Text Message Supervision, or Social Media supervision. If you really need full-powered parental control on iOS devices, look to Editors' Choice Kaspersky Safe Kids (for iPhone).

Parental Reporting and Notification
So far I've just talked about how you use Norton to define and enforce House Rules. The other half of the equation is what Norton calls Activities—the logs of what your children have been up to. The Activities summary shows the same eight types of supervision, with an overview of the latest activity. You can filter the summary to just look at one device, in which case you'll see a message stating "This feature is not supported" for categories that don't apply to that device.

Clicking on one of the panel opens a more detailed view, and in most cases you can drill down even farther. For example, the Web Supervision summary shows the most-used categories. Clicking it gets a full list of all sites visited, warned, or blocked. And clicking a specific site displays that site's categories, a thumbnail, and any message that the child sent. Search Supervision displays a word cloud of search words in the summary and lists precise search terms when you click.

On the Video Supervision summary, you see thumbnails of the videos your child has watched. Drilling down lists the videos, along with the device used for viewing and a date/time stamp. And clicking an item in that list lets you view the video's description or jump straight to the video itself.

Your Norton Family account can have more than one designated parent—that makes sense, but it's not a common feature. Parents get email notification of quite a few events. These include visiting a blocked site, sending information that was defined as personal, and installing an app that blocks Norton Family, among other things. You can turn off any or all of these if they get to be too much.

As you can see, this is an extremely comprehensive parental control system, its only weakness being the limited iOS support. As a standalone product, it's an Editors' Choice.

A Star-Studded Suite
If Symantec Norton Security Premium were a movie, it would have a star-studded cast. Its antivirus component is an Editors' Choice, as is parental control system. As a separate product, its Android security app is also an Editors' Choice. Various components earn excellent scores in independent lab tests and in our own tests. And it even offers a full security suite for macOS, something few competitors accomplish.

Norton Security Premium is an Editors' Choice for cross-platform multi-device suites, and it's a great choice as long as its ten licenses suffice for your needs. If your household needs security for even more devices, consider our other Editors' Choice in this area, McAfee LiveSafe. It doesn't score as well as Norton in testing, but you can use it on every device in your household, no limits.

Sub-Ratings:
Note: These sub-ratings contribute to a product's overall star rating, as do other factors, including ease of use in real-world testing, bonus features, and overall integration of features.
Firewall:
Antivirus:
Performance:
Privacy:
Parental Control:

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