Norton 360 antivirus review

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With features such as a password manager, backup software, online storage, parental controls, unlimited VPN service and three different levels of identity protection along with excellent malware protection, the Norton 360 2020 antivirus lineup offers some of the most complete security (and privacy) suites around.

Norton’s eight different Windows antivirus packages are for people who prefer everything in one place, who would rather not mix-and-match applications and services — and who can afford Norton’s prices. All this integration gets expensive quickly as you add features.

Norton’s malware-scanning engine uses a lot of system resources during full scans, and no Norton package offers file shredding or encryption. But if you’re looking for a single solution to cover your digital security and privacy from every angle, look no further than Norton.

None of its competitors offer as comprehensive an approach to security. Kaspersky offers similarly excellent malware protection and a full range of extra features, but its product lacks identity-protection options. McAfee does offer identity protection, but it lets more malware through.

If you want to combine some of the best identity-theft protection with some of the best antivirus protection, one of the three Norton 360 with LifeLock plans is for you. Read on for the rest of our Norton 360 review.

Updated with most recent lab-test results. This review was originally published Feb. 4, 2020.

Norton 360: Costs and what’s covered

The eight Windows antivirus products of the NortonLifeLock family can protect anything from a single PC to a household’s worth of computers and mobile devices along with the identities of their users.

There’s no free Norton software, but there’s a 60-day satisfaction guarantee on the paid products, as well as Norton’s Virus Protection Promise of a refund if the software can’t keep your system clean. The list prices are higher than comparable products from other antivirus vendors, but you can often find substantial markdowns.

The entry-level Norton AntiVirus Plus protects a single PC or Mac and works with Windows 7 through 10. (Norton representatives told us AntiVirus Plus unofficially runs on Windows XP and Vista.) 

AntiVirus Plus costs $60 per year and offers features normally reserved for more expensive suites, including a two-way firewall, a password manager and backup software with 2GB of online storage space.

The next step up is Norton 360 Standard, which protects a single PC, Mac, phone or tablet. It boosts the online storage to 10GB and, on Windows, includes online banking and webcam protection. 

Norton 360 Standard offers unlimited access to Norton’s Secure VPN virtual private network, which on its own costs $50 a year. It also includes LifeLock monitoring of your personal information on the dark web. Norton 360 Standard lists for $85 per year.

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For $105 a year, Norton 360 Deluxe covers five devices, regardless of platform. It adds parental controls and gives you up to 50GB of online storage and five simultaneous VPN connections. It maxes out all of Norton’s core antivirus features; the next five products add device licenses, online storage and identity protection.

Norton 360 Premium, available at retail stores but not on the Norton website, expands the Deluxe antivirus and VPN coverage to up to 10 devices and 75GB of online storage. It lists at $100 per year at online retailers, although the Norton website price list has its subscription cost as $125 per year. 

Norton 360 Platinum, also retail-only, goes for $130 per year, covers up to 20 devices and offers 100GB of online storage.

The top three products add increasing levels of LifeLock identity protection to Norton 360 Deluxe’s antivirus features. 

  • Norton 360 with LifeLock Select, $15 per month or $150 a year, monitors your Equifax credit file. If your identity is stolen, you’ll be reimbursed up to $25,000 for stolen funds, $25,000 for expenses incurred and $1 million for lawyers and experts. The antivirus protection and VPN connections are limited to five devices, but you’ll get 100GB of online storage.
  • Norton 360 with LifeLock Advantage covers 10 devices for $25 a month, or $250 a year, and provides 250GB of online storage. You’ll get up to $100,000 for expenses and stolen funds each. It also monitors your bank and credit-card accounts, scans court records for your name and watches for fraudulent use of your Social Security number.
  • Finally, Norton 360 with LifeLock Unlimited Plus lists for $35 a month. or $350 a year. and increases the insurance coverage for expenses and stolen funds to $1 million each. It monitors your retirement and investment accounts, plus your files with all three major credit bureaus. It covers an unlimited number of devices and VPN connections and includes 500GB of online storage.

Norton’s Mac antivirus software (which we’ve reviewed separately, although it’s not sold that way) supports the current and two previous versions of macOS, but the parental controls, backup software and webcam protection are only for Windows.

Android phones and tablets need version 6 or higher to run Norton Mobile Security (also reviewed separately), and the somewhat toothless iPhone and iPad apps run on the current and two previous versions of iOS. There’s no Norton Linux software.

Norton 360: Antivirus protection

Each NortonLifeLock product defends against malicious email attachments, phishing attacks and spam as well as malware. If the program’s defenses can be adjusted, and Norton’s Silent Mode can prevent updates, pop-ups and other interruptions during movies or games.

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

There’s a quick-scan button on the program’s main screen, and full or custom scans are three clicks away. You can also scan any item by right-clicking it in Windows Explorer, but unlike many antivirus programs, Norton won’t automatically scan USB drives when they’re plugged into your PC.

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

If your PC gets so stuffed with malware that Norton can’t clean it, Norton’s Bootable Recovery Tool can help. Put the downloadable software on a DVD or flash drive, and it will reboot the computer in a secure Linux environment for comprehensive cleaning.

Norton 360: Antivirus performance

Along with Kaspersky, Norton’s malware engine is among the best at protecting Windows computers.

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

Norton detected every instance of known “widespread” malware in every monthly evaluation conducted by German lab AV-Test from January 2017 through December 2020. Its otherwise perfect winning streak against previously unseen “zero-day” malware was marred by a single miss in April 2020, when it got a 99.5% detection rate.

Only Kaspersky matched those numbers (and broke its winning streak in the same month), although Kaspersky’s malware engine was arguably better “tuned” as it picked up only eight false-positive detections over that three-year period compared with Norton’s 35. (Norton’s false-positive rate has been going down.)

The two brands jockeyed for the lead in evaluations run by Austrian lab AV-Comparatives in 2020. Norton detected an average of 100% of malware from February through May 2020, ahead of Kaspersky’s 99.9%. The tables were turned in the July-October 2020 tests, in which Kaspersky averaged 99.7% detection to Norton’s 99.5%

But Norton got a total of 72 false positives over the course of 2020, while Kaspersky had just two. The latter’s malware-detection engine may be better tuned. 

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Latest test results as of January 2021
Malware detection rates AV-Test zero-day AV-Test widespread AV-Comparatives SE Labs
Bitdefender 100% 100% 99.6% n/a
ESET 100% 100% 99.3% n/a
Kaspersky 100%

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