If you're online, you need protection
While it certainly has its good points, there is no denying the fact that the internet is becoming more of a security minefield every day.
Many years ago, when I bought my first computer and discovered the joys of the web via my trusty 14.4 kbit/s dialup modem (yes kiddies, there was a time before wi-fi, broadband, Twitter, and even Facebook), there were still a good number of people who didn't use security software.
Back then, having your computer hacked was a more personal event, without the much more automated and efficient processes available to today's online vandals. And even though I knew a lot of people who were living on the edge and surfing without protection, few were actually targeted.
This isn't the case now: if you are online, you are a target. The Symantec Security Threat Report says web attacks rose 30 per cent in 2012.
Symantec's latest range of security software is comprehensive enough to have something to suit most households and are compatible with the new features of Windows 8.1.
1-year subscription for one PC: RRP $60
If you simply want to protect one computer from the standard online threats and be kept up-to-date on the latest nasties, this is the set-and- forget software for you.
You'll get the usual layers of protection from Symantec to neutralise the net nasties, including social media scams.
It installs fast and just gets on with things with very little effort required from the user.
It seemed to chug along in the background without having much impact on system speed and offers really good blocking of malicious websites and antiphishing and malware cleanup options.
There's a reason this is Symantec's best-seller.
NORTON INTERNET SECURITY
1-year subscription for up to three PCs: RRP $70
Norton Internet Security (NIS) provides a more comprehensive protection for your home PCs and laptops, ready to do battle against viruses, spam, ID theft and social media issues, offering a robust system scan and firewall and - as a little bonus - a process to get rid of the junk that slows your computer down when you start it up.
Installation on my older computer was a breeze, with the setup going smoothly and quickly. I did have to uninstall an existing piece of security software because Norton doesn't play nicely with others but (as always) the software itself alerted me to the problem before it was installed and then proceeded to walk me through the entire process with online instructions popping up on my screen at each step.
NIS did a good job of alerting me to potential malicious websites and the online Identity Safe password manager worked seamlessly: if you have a lot of passwords to remember, Identity Safe will become your best friend.
Symantec says that based on recent testing, compared with last year's releases, Norton products have improved boot time by 15 per cent, install speed by 10 per cent and memory usage during scan by 100MBs, resulting in the fastest and lightest performance yet. (Source: PassMark, August 2013)
Personally, I found NIS does seem to slow the system a little more than Norton 360 or Antivirus but I suppose it is doing a lot of work in the background. However, it is certainly a long way from the system-throttling, resource-hungry Norton software of years gone by.
NORTON 360 MULTI-DEVICE
1-year subscription for up to five devices: RRP $90
Do you have a tablet? Or a smartphone? Do you want the mac- daddy of the best pimped out protection Symantec has for your home use? Then this is the one for you.
Norton 360 is a great all-in-one, user-friendly and simple system to protect all your toys: you get all the caped crusader goodness of antivirus, anti-spam and anti ID theft in a simplified setup that just ticks away in the background and requires little interaction or input from the user.
This is perfect if you aren't particularly tech-savvy, but even if you are, you'll appreciate how minimally invasive this little bit of kit is.
If you are the type of person who likes to tinker, you'll probably prefer NIS. However, if you're happy to let what is a pretty damn efficient piece of software just get on with the job at hand, you'll get good value for your $90 investment with this one.
With protection for five devices (a mix of PCs, tablets and smartphones), this should suit most households and the 25GB of online backup for your files is an added bonus, along with the ability to help you find missing phones and tablet computers.