Norton Security Premium is Symantec's antimalware suite for Windows, Mac, and Android. The app uses a combination of detection methods, including virus signatures, cloud-based analysis, and now machine learning as well.
Broad-spectrum protection: Norton Security Premium offers multiple lines of defense. The traditional method of antivirus scanning has been to use virus definition files, like a mugshot catalog for malware. But malware has become sophisticated enough to change its appearance beyond recognition. The next step has been behavioral scanning, identifying malware through its behaviors, either triggered by the scanner in a sandbox (a virtual container that tricks the malware into running in an environment where it can be safely examined) or triggered by you when you open a malicious file or Web link.
Norton's new move goes beyond the sandbox. The company's Predictive Machine Learning (PML) includes a supercomputer that's been fed tens of millions of files, creating a body of knowledge that the supercomputer developed faster than the computer scientists who created it, according to Norton. Instead of identifying malware by its resemblance to a mugshot, this new type of detection looks at how a file is put together to determine whether the file should even have a mugshot.
In theory, PML can defend against zero-day security flaws, which are when malware is active before a developer has had any days to patch its exploited software. Sometimes it takes software publishers weeks or months to fix vulnerabilities. Combined with Norton Insights and its constantly updated database of virus signatures, Norton gives you have a multipronged set of antimalware tools.
Descriptive settings: In the Settings section of Norton Security Premium, almost every setting has a box with a question mark that you can click to see a description in detailed, plain English. We'd prefer having this documentation available offline or in a downloadable file, but it's still a big improvement over antimalware apps that use a lot of catchy but vague buzzwords.
Browser toolbar has some issues: Norton obviously recognizes the pitfalls of clicking a malicious link. The toolbar provides a vetted search engine (the search results are filtered so that they don't point to sketchy websites), and the add-on puts a seal of approval on search results when you use Google. However, in our testing, the toolbar made Chrome lock up a few times and didn't do a great job of visually integrating into Chrome's interface. It might be better if the toolbar popped up only when you clicked Chrome's address bar or moved your mouse pointer up to that part of the screen.
While the toolbar has some rough edges, Norton has built a respectable antimalware platform for Norton Security Premium. The introduction of predictive machine learning gives the competition a challenge to catch up with.