Norton AntiVirus 2004 protects against spyware, piracy

Protecting users from spyware, key-logging programs and pirated software are the two newest features of Symantec Corp.’s Norton AntiVirus 2004 software released this week.

Spyware are programs used by third parties to gather information about a user without his or her knowledge and is sold to interested third parties, including advertisers. Key-logging programs are installed unwittingly on machines and track user keystrokes to determine passwords. Spyware and key-logging programs are commonly transmitted through viruses, worms or Trojan horses.

“Right now you’re starting to see more noise in the marketplace that Trojans and key-logging have become more prevalent,” said Matthew Kovar, director, security solutions and services at the Yankee Group in Boston.

He pointed to one well-known examples at copier and document specialist Kinko’s Inc., where someone installed a key-logging program on a Kinko’s machine and was able to get access to people’s passwords.

Kovar said that while some smaller players beat Symantec to the punch with anti-spyware protection, Symantec is one of the first big players to include this functionality in its software.

“In this new arena it’s still something that people are still coming up to speed with, that there is a problem [with spyware],” Kovar explained.

Other antivirus products that offer anti-spyware protection include PestScan by PestPatrol Inc., a free product that is downloadable from the Carlisle, Penn.-based company’s Web site. WholeSecurity Inc. produces an enterprise-level antivirus/anti-spyware product called Confidence Online, Kovar said.

While e-mail tends to be the medium of choice to distribute spyware and viruses, writers of malicious code have started to take advantage of the compressed files swapped in instant messaging and peer-to-peer networks, such as the music-swapping software Kazaa.

For users of Microsoft Corp.’s Windows 2000 and XP, Norton AntiVirus 2004 will provide protection from downloading infected compressed files and from sharing them with other users.

The offering will also include a product activation feature in order to prevent the pirating of software. Product activation creates a connection between the product and the machine it is installed on to ensure it can’t be copied to other machines without entering a registration number or licensing number.

“Symantec is considered the number-two targeted vendor [for software piracy] after Microsoft,” explained Kelly Martin, senior product manager for the Norton AntiVirus consumer product line. Martin said that Symantec is targeting mass counterfeiters with its product activation program, adding that the goal was to make the activation process easy for consumers.

When users install Norton AntiVirus 2004 they enter the product activation key and Norton connects back to Symantec to ensure the key is a valid one. If the key isn’t valid then the software simply does not activate and sends the user an error message.

Because Norton wanted to make it easy for consumers to migrate to new computers or change operating systems without having to purchase a new license, each copy of Norton can be installed up to five times, however the user still only retains one licence. It’s essentially an honour system, Martin said.

Norton AntiVirus 2004 is currently available. As well as a Standard version, Symantec will release a Professional version of Norton AntiVirus 2004 that will include data recovery tools to help users restore damaged files and a data-cleaning tool that digitally shreds deliberately deleted files.

The Professional Edition will also include licensing for two computers. It will be available for purchase in five-user and 10-user licence packs for small businesses. The five-user Small Office pack will cost US$199.95, while the 10-user pack will cost US$399.95.

Symantec estimates Norton AntiVirus 2004 Standard Edition will retail for US$49.95 and the Professional Edition for US$69.95.

Current users of Norton AntiVirus products and competing antivirus software will be able to upgrade to the Standard Edition of Norton AntiVirus 2004 for US$29.95, and US$39.95 for the Professional Edition.