Norton Mobile pushes security as a service

Norton's new single-license approach to both Android and iOS makes it easy to have one security provider across different platforms, but the real goal is to refocus the app as a service.

Malware scan results on Norton Mobile Security for Android.

(Credit: Symantec)

Norton Mobile Security has taken the unusual step today of merging its mobile licensing so that you pay once and can use the mobile security suite on either Android or iOS. It's an effort to make Norton's security more accessible, and parent company Symantec wants to turn Norton accessibility into a security service.

The change isn't drastic, said Con Mallon, senior director of Norton mobile product management, but natural. "The new Norton Mobile Security is both a Web service and a mobile service," he said in a phone interview with CNET. "We're going to start moving away from a hard one or two devices, and we're saying that people can use multiple devices."

Mallon clarified that this wasn't the typical, limited number of devices, either. "We have a anti-abuse policy set loosely at 10 devices, but for the $30 [Norton Mobile Security costs] you can put it on a lot of devices." Given that Norton Mobile Security works on both Android and iOS, albeit with more features on the Android version, that's not a bad deal for people who are not wedded to one operating system.

Norton Mobile Security on iOS lets you backup and restore your contacts to Androids as well as other iOS devices.

(Credit: Symantec)

The revamped apps aren't ground-breaking in the mobile security app arena, but they do make Norton more competitive. The iOS app updates including the ability to track a lost or stolen device on a map, including showing the last 10 locations the device's GPS had checked in from. It will also backup and restore your contacts list.

The Android app will let you remotely wipe your device or have it emit a piercing "scream" to help find it. The user interfaces in both apps and the Web portal have been improved so that the mobile apps look the same, while the Web portal has become more streamlined.

One of the easy wins for cross-platform mobile security like Norton is that it allows people to backup and synchronize their contact lists. While security on mobile devices often has meant more attention paid to finding or wiping a lost device than the traditional Windows interpretation of blocking malware -- although that's not been the case for Android -- Mallon said that there's a role for cross-platform mobile security.

"Certainly one of the things we've been calling out is mobile adware. These adware libraries are being tucked into these apps," he said, and explained that many of these apps could scan your device surreptitiously. "We're going to start to have to determine which are the more annoying apps from the less annoying ones," he said, implying that Norton and other security suites will have to warn people about such apps.

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