We put the Norton 360 antivirus and security software to the test – is it the protection your PC, Mac, tablet or Android device needs? Here’s our review
The name Norton has a long history in the computer security sector, with its antivirus software dating back to 1991, and the original Norton Utilities, which became popular through its ability to unerase deleted files, coming out in 1982.
Today, the company which is now known as NortonLifeLock following a merger, bundles a lot of different products together in a security suite, and calls it Norton 360. This comes in different subscription-based packages, from standard to premium and is an application you install on a Windows PC, Apple Mac, iPhone or iPad, or Android phone or tablet.
Standard (£24.99, Norton.com), which is the cheapest package, can only be installed on one device, and doesn’t include Norton’s parental controls or dark-web monitoring features.
The deluxe version (£34.99, Norton.com), adds these, along with the ability to install the software on five devices, while the premium tier lets you install on ten devices – handy for a busy home full of laptops, phones and tablets – but otherwise adds nothing in the way of new features.
There’s also a “for gamers” tier, tucked away on the Norton website. It costs nearly as much as the deluxe tier, and provides protection for three devices with dark-web monitoring, and a “game optimizer” that suppresses the activity of other programs on your PC.
How we tested
We installed Norton 360 in a virtual machine running a fully updated and activated copy of Windows 10 Home, ran it through its paces on the clean machine, then exposed it to test files from the European Institute for Computer Anti-Virus Research (EICAR) and spyshelter.com.
It detected 100 per cent of the test files we tried, which tallies with the results of independent IT research institute av-test.org’s testing. They found it was 100 per cent effective at detecting real-world web and email threats, against an industry average of 98.9 per cent.
Buy now £44.99 for the first year, £94.99/year thereafter
- Internet security
- Parental controls
There’s more to Norton 360 than just antivirus software, however. You get a secure, anonymous VPN to keep your browsing activities private and secure, with a handy split tunnel feature that sends traffic from some apps to the VPN, and the rest to your normal internet connection.
Then there’s its password manager, which will generate strong, complex passwords and remember them for you, so you don’t need to even attempt to commit 16 random characters to memory. There’s a firewall too, to monitor network traffic and block anything suspicious.
These are features offered by many security suites, but Norton has a few unique tricks. We especially like SafeCam, which alerts you when anything attempts to access your computer’s webcam – this sort of behaviour is fine from the likes of Skype or Zoom, but an application you’ve never heard of needs to be blocked and investigated.
Norton 360 subscribers on Windows also get access to up to 75GB of cloud storage to keep essential documents or irreplaceable photos in, just in case something happens to your PC.
“Dark web monitoring” is an interesting feature, which monitors the parts of the internet not indexed by web search engines. These are often the domains of the sophisticated cybercriminal, and so by alerting you if your name, email address or passwords are being passed around there, it gives you a heads up that it may be time to change your passwords or switch on two-factor authentication if you haven’t already.
Then there are the features aimed at the kids. With home-schooling becoming a regular part of family life, the temptation to slip a few minutes on a different smartphone app when they should be concentrating is huge. “School time” helps counteract this by managing the phone during school hours, not cutting off its internet connection, but by only allowing approved apps to run. So if a lesson is being delivered over Zoom, then Zoom is the app your child will see.
There are further parental controls too, with a selection of blocking tools to control what gets searched for (and what gets viewed) as well as lists of websites visited, videos watched, and apps downloaded to kids’ smartphones and tablets. You get GPS location monitoring for mobile devices too.
One thing to watch out for is pricing. Norton 360 is a subscription service, which means you’ll be charged every year you want to keep using it. However, the renewal prices after the first year are much higher than the initial price you’ll pay. Norton 360 premium, for example, costs £44.99 for the first year, but renews at £94.99 unless you cancel.
Buy now £44.99 for the first year, £94.99/year thereafter
Norton 360 FAQs
How does Norton work?
Most of the time, Norton lurks in the background, minimised to an icon in the system tray on Windows, and only leaping into action when it discovers something that looks amiss.
Behind the scenes, it’s checking for vulnerabilities being used to enter your network from the wider internet, and analysing file behaviour to see if it (or any of the data associated with it) marks it out as suspicious.
If it’s slowing down website loading or application opening, which as it’s taking up processor cycles and RAM it should, we didn’t notice it. The app’s own graphs showed it using a maximum of 23 per cent of our CPU time (process time) during a thorough scan.
On top of the background scanning, you can also run periodic scans of your own, during which Norton 360 inspects your memory and storage for malware and viruses that have already taken up residence. It’s an approach that should lead to the detection of most known malware (and some unknown attacks too, thanks to the behavioural detection).
You also get tools to remove any viruses and clean up your system, including threat-specific ones that target particular infestations.
The verdict: Norton 360
Overall, Norton 360 is an extremely well-featured security suite. The choice of which version to get comes down to two things: whether you want the parental controls, and how many devices you want to install it on.
Windows 10 and Mac OS have good built-in security, but if you’ve got a full household of enthusiastic internet users, you can’t always expect everybody to keep on top of best practices – like not visiting sites that appear to offer free movie downloads, or not opening unsolicited emails that seem too good to be true.
A suite like this offers peace of mind and control of a young family’s viewing habits on top of what you already have. And in a world where more and more threats attempt to take advantage of weaknesses in our digital defences, it’s well worth having.
Do shop around, though, as Norton’s subscription renewal prices are steep, and other internet security applications are available.
For the latest discounts on Norton 360 and other tech offers, try the links below:
For more online security options, read our guide to the best antivirus software for protecting your connected devices
IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.