Norton Antivirus Review

By Aliza Vigderman, Senior Editor, Industry Analyst & Gabe Turner, Chief Editor
Norton App Home Page
Editors Rating:
9.9 /10

What We Like

What We Don't Like

  • History of lawsuits and vulnerabilities: From using scare tactics to literally just overcharging customers, Norton’s history is less than ideal.
  • Clunky desktop experience: While it wasn’t the worst user experience we’ve ever had testing out a desktop antivirus app, the constantly changing combination of apps, extensions and windows grew tiresome pretty quickly.
  • Prices increase after the first year: Norton’s website isn’t the most straightforward when it comes to their prices after the first year.

Norton is one of the biggest names in digital security, and while we’ve tested out their VPN in the past, their antivirus software was a mystery to us…until now. We tested out their software extensively on our Mac, and boy, have we got news to share with you.

Norton Antivirus Features

Blocks viruses Yes
Blocks spyware Yes
Blocks malware Yes
Password manager Yes
Monthly price range $1.25 – $24.99
Editor's Rating
Overall Rating
  • Antivirus software is available on its own or bundled with credit monitoring, parental controls, VPNs, etc.
  • Prices start at $1.24 a month, billed yearly
  • Plans available for iOS, macOS, Windows and Android devices

Our User Experience

Once we decided that we wanted to test out Antivirus Plus, Norton had us log into our existing account, which we had after testing out Norton Secure VPN. Once we logged in, our payment information was still saved from our last purchase, so we just had to download the installer on our Macbook Pro, after we deleted a few other antivirus apps that were getting in its way. The installer download was pretty quick, but the installation process for the actual app took a bit longer than we expected. In fact, we even had to restart our computer to use the app, which was a bit annoying.

But once we were in the app, things were pretty straightforward, with only two sections to choose from, initially. But before we clicked on anything, we noticed that Norton said we were in a trial for 30 days; since we already bought the subscription, we found this odd. It turned out that we had to sign in to our account in order to activate the subscription; oddly, the login didn’t appear first when we opened the app. But, once we signed in, all of those annoying messages went away.

Device Security

This section contained the meat of the antivirus software, a Quick Scan. When we clicked on this, Norton opened another window that gave us two other scan options, Full Scan, which is for all of the files and folders on our computer, and File Scan, which was for specific files. In contrast, Quick Scan only included the areas of our computer where malware was likely to hide, but for the full enchilada, we went with the Full Scan, using the timer on our iPhone to see how long it took (over an hour, much to our dismay).

So what exactly is Norton scanning for, anyway? Well, the firewall is looking for any threats to our network, while the rest is scanning for suspicious behavior, which includes any signals of:

  • Viruses
  • Malware
  • Ransomware.

As opposed to signature-based detection, which can only find known examples of malware, behavior-based detection is more preventative, spotting malware even if it’s not in a database.

Password Manager

Now, part of our antivirus subscription was also a password manager, but when we clicked “Set Up” on the Norton app, we were brought back to the Norton website and told to install a separate browser extension or mobile app. We downloaded the extension for Chrome within a few seconds and were brought to another web page, where we entered our email address. After signing in to our account on Norton’s website, we were brought to a page that said to create a vault. Next, we were told to create a vault password and were brought to a page to set up the password manager on our phones, which we decided to skip for now.

Setting Up Norton Password Manager
Setting Up Norton Password Manager

Finally, we were in the vault, where we could either manually add our login information or import our passwords from Firefox. The problem? We saved our passwords in Chrome, but they didn’t accept the CSV file that we already had on our computer. Rather, we had to download the importer app, extract our passwords from Chrome, convert them from CSV to JSON, and then drag that file into Norton’s vault. If this sounds complicated, it’s because it was. But after about three tries, we finally got it right and were able to drop our file in the vault. Now, when we go to websites where we already have accounts, Norton fills it in for us, which is very convenient despite the really disorderly setup process.

FYI: To import your passwords into the Norton Password Manager, you’ll need to download an Importer app from the Norton website.

That was it for the Norton Antivirus Plus macOS app, except for one thing: at the bottom of the app, it said Additional Apps & Services. Curious, we clicked on it and found a description of the Ultimate Help Desk, which was basically an IT service for around $20 a month where we could get help “on-demand”. To be honest, we assumed that this was already available on a free level, so needless to say, we did not sign up.

Cloud Backup

So remember when we said that there were two sections of Norton on the app? Randomly, another one appeared later in our testing called Cloud Backup. Oh yea, we forgot that Norton Antivirus Plus also gave us two GB of cloud storage, which we could view online. Again, we don’t enjoy the constant toggling between website and app, but oh well, we’ll survive. On the website, we found cloud storage, which we could drag and drop files into. This might seem like a weird addition to Norton’s features, but it’s actually quite useful to protect against ransomware. The purpose of the cloud backup is so we have backup of our most important files, in case our hard drive gets corrupted or hijacked. Quite nifty! And that was it for the app’s capabilities and our experience using them!

Testing Norton Antivirus Pro

Norton’s record of detecting 100 percent of widespread malware tracks back to May 2020. Compared to the industry average of 99 percent, still impressive, Norton is a cut above the rest.

Norton Quick Scan Completed
Norton Quick Scan Completed

But we don’t just go by other people’s test results. We also performed our own tests on Norton after downloading five different types of viruses disguised as different types of files: XLSX, EXE, DOC, XLSM and SLX files. With Norton on, the software detected three out of the five, leaving the DOC and XLSM files undetected. That would have been a problem had we clicked on them; the DOC app would’ve taken over our Mac as an administrator, while the XLSM file would have exploited our documents. Even though 60 percent is technically a failing grade if you’re in school, only five percent of the 40 software we tested detected 100 percent of those same five viruses, so when you look at it that way, Norton is actually pretty on-par with its competition for virus detection.

Paying for Norton Antivirus Plus

Norton is a big-name brand antivirus with a rich feature-set and satisfactory malware detection capabilities, so it must be expensive, right? Well, we paid only $14.99 for the first year of our Norton Antivirus Plus subscription. This is a really low price compared to other antivirus programs, most of which cost around $39.99 per year. But again, since this price only applies to the first year, we can’t say for sure if Norton will save you money over time. We cover all of their subscription options on our Norton pricing page, for more information.

The Norton Mobile Applications

Even though we tested out Norton on our trusty old Macbook Pro, we also wanted to see what customers thought of its iOS and Android apps, both of which have ratings of 4.7 out of five stars on the App and Google Play stores, respectively. And while there were some negative recent comments regarding auto-renewal for subscriptions, in general, the apps worked well for people and were certainly easier to install than the desktop app. Hallelujah!

Note: Our AntiVirus Plus subscription didn’t cover the mobile apps, but if you upgrade to the next tier, Norton 360 Deluxe, you will get coverage for up to five devices, including smartphones. Deluxe costs $34.99 for the first year.

Can I Trust Norton?

Since we can’t do any team-building activities with Antivirus Plus like a trust fall, we had to land on other ways to see how trustworthy it is. We started with their privacy policy, plain and simple.

Privacy Policy

After a little bit of digging, we found the privacy policy for Norton’s antivirus products, specifically. They keep data such as:

  • Any spam emails
  • Reported malware detections
  • File backups if using cloud storage
  • Anonymized IP address
  • Anonymized geolocation
  • Product serial number
  • Operating system
  • Device make and model
  • Device identifiers
  • Websites visited including keywords and search terms
  • Application names and versions
  • Internet usage time
  • Connection activity.

Norton also collects and accesses some of our data through third parties, gathering information like the security ratings of our URLs and files, the files that the software identified as malware plus any failure diagnostics. However, Norton restricts this third-party sharing to only auditors related to the government, service providers or research organizations. Unlike their identity monitoring software LifeLock, which we’ve also reviewed, they don’t share this information with marketers and advertisers, which was a relief. Overall, this privacy policy is actually better than most simply due to the fact that they’re not selling our data to advertisers (with their antivirus software, anyway).

But the privacy policy alone wasn’t enough to sway us one way or another. Norton, owned by Symantec, has a few things in their past that gave us pause.

Software Vulnerabilities

The most concerning thing was the fact that in 2018, Symantec was sued in a class-action lawsuit due to vulnerabilities in their antivirus software1 (and yes, that’s exactly what we’re talking about here). Now, these sorts of vulnerabilities aren’t uncommon among tech companies, but it’s still not great that an antivirus company actually made some of their customers more vulnerable to cyber attacks. That’d be like a doctor causing more harm than good to her patients!

What was the result of the lawsuit, you may be wondering? Well, it’s still ongoing, as of May 2020 when it was officially granted the right to proceed as a class action lawsuit.2 Now, keep in mind that Symantec is innocent until proven guilty, so we are keeping our eyes on this case until it’s resolved.

Scare Tactics

But that wasn’t the only thing giving us pause about Symantec and by extension Norton. Back in 2012, they were sued in another class action lawsuit for allegedly defrauding their customers, running fake antivirus scans on their computers to convince them to buy their software.3 Symantec ended up settling for $11 million.4

Double Billing

The sad part is that this isn’t a full list of all of Symantec’s class action lawsuits. In 2013, they had to pay $10 million for intentionally billing customers twice as much as they should have.5

Now, we’re not legal scholars, but this seems to be far too many class action lawsuits for a company that’s supposed to help to protect people. Our theory? Since Norton is a publicly traded company, they’re subject to the demands of their shareholders, and with some tech companies expanding ten-fold every quarter, the desire to deliver that return on investment may have caused some shady business practices. That being said, this is more of a critique of capitalism than it is of Norton (in other words, don’t hate the player, hate the game). Of course, we completely understand if these lawsuits turn you off of Norton; if that’s the case, we recommend learning more about the other best antivirus software protection available.

Need Help?

When we needed help setting up the password manager component of our antivirus software, we did a search on Norton’s online help center, which quickly brought us instructions. However, we could’ve also taken advantage of their live chat, 24/7 phone support, or even their support staff on Facebook and Twitter. Overall, we’re impressed with their 24/7 support, as most companies just have business hours during the weekdays.

Norton Vault with Passwords Imported
Norton Vault with Passwords Imported

Is Norton Antivirus Plus For You?

It’s clear that Norton Antivirus Plus isn’t for everyone. Its main drawbacks, of course, are its dodgy legal history, with more than three class action lawsuits along with some major security vulnerabilities. But the software works well, especially when it comes to detecting malware.

If Norton sounds good to you, then you can save money by bundling it with a VPN or identity theft protection. To learn more, read about Norton Secure VPN pricing or LifeLock pricing.

Editors Rating:
9.9 /10
  1. PR Newswire. (2018). Consumers File Class Action Lawsuit Against Symantec for Defective AntiVirus Software.

  2. Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann LLP. (2020). Felix v. Symantec Corporation et al.

  3. NBC News. (2012). Lawsuit: Symantec bullies users into buying anti-virus software.

  4. Law 360. (2013). Symantec Inks $11M Deal Ending Claims It Used Scare Tactics.

  5. Law 360. (2013). Symantec Will Pay $10M To End Software Double-Billing Suit.