Norton AV 2004 protects against spyware, key-logging programs

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

Spyware are programs used by third parties to gather information about a user without his or her knowledge, which is subsequently sold to interested third parties, including advertisers. Key-logging programs are installed unwittingly on machines to track user keystrokes and 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 example 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, a free product downloadable from Carlisle, Penn.-based PestPatrol Inc.’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 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, the software simply does not activate and sends the user an error message. Each copy of Norton can be installed up to five times. However, the user still only retains one licence.

Norton AntiVirus 2004 standard version is currently available. Symantec will also release a Professional version that will include data recovery tools 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.

Symantec estimates the Standard Edition will retail for US$49.95 and the Professional Edition for US$69.95. Upgrades to the Standard Edition cost US$29.95, and US$39.95 for the Professional Edition.