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Security for Android ‚ at a price

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Norton is not known for a small footprint in its security software. But their Mobile Security app for Android surprised SEAN BACHER with its ease of operation and accuracy, despite obvious shortcomings.

Security is a vital aspect of every computer connected to the Internet. Not only is the security there to protect the data on your machine, but also to protect your identity from phishing sites and the like.

To combat these attacks, Norton recently announced its Norton Mobile Security product, designed to run on any Android smartphone or tablet.

It is an all-in-one solution, protecting your device from malware and viruses and also allowing you to wipe, disable or locate the devices remotely, should they fall into the wrong hands.

However, the application is not one that you can simply download from the Android Market Place, but instead resides on Norton’s servers in the UK.

We put it through the Gadget Five Question User Test to see if it really is up to protecting an Android device.

1. Is it ready to use?

Unlike most other Android applications, this one comes in a box. You buy it off the shelf, much as you would any other software application.

In the box though, there is not much. In fact there is just a card with a product key on it and a piece of paper with instructions on how to download the application.

Once you have typed in the download URL, you will have to wait a few minutes for it to download. Before you can install it, though, you need to change Android’s settings to allow installations of non-market applications. After the installation is done, enter the product key and an administrator password to activate Norton, and you are fully protected for the next 365 days.

2. Is it easy to use?

The opening screen is simple to navigate and clutter-free. Options such as Anti-theft, Anti-Malware, Call and SMS Blocking and Web Protection let you configure and fine-tune each of these aspects. For instance, selecting the Anti-theft option allows you to set options such as being able to wipe the device remotely, lock it or locate it. The Anti-Malware option allows you to schedule scans and how often it should search for updates. Should you select the Web-Protection option, you are presented with a list of pages that have been blocked, while the SMS and Call Blocking lists the numbers and SMSs you have blocked.

Unlike other mobile security products, Norton Mobile Security works off a ‚buddy‚ system. This means that, before you can do anything remotely, you need to add a few (up to five) cellular numbers of friends and family from where you can remotely manage your device.

For instance, I added my cellphone number into the buddy list, meaning that, should I SMS a command such as ‘Locate’ and my password to the cellular number of the SIM in the device, it will locate it. The same goes for wiping and locking.

3. Does it operate as advertised?

On the malware side, I set the scans to run daily and for Norton to check weekly for new updates. Since the installation, this has been carrying on in the background without any further intervention. Going in and checking manually, I can see that the scans have in fact been running daily and the updates downloaded weekly.

On the remote admin side, things also ran smoothly. I SMSed the Locate command to my device and was astonished when it gave me the physical address of where the device was. It manages this with the help of Google Maps, so I even had directions on how to get to the address.

When I sent the Lock command, the device was locked in seconds, meaning I had to input the Norton administrator password before I could do anything else. The Wipe command I left out as the other commands had worked perfectly and I was not too happy at the thought of having to re-populate the device with my data.

One drawback is that you have to have a SIM card in your device at all times in order to use the remote administration features.

4. Is it innovative?

Security solutions for mobile devices have been around for a few years. Remotely locking and finding the device features are also not new. A while ago we did a review on BlackBerry’s BlackBerry Protect application which is freely available from BlackBerry’s App world and does exactly the same job.

5. Is it value for money?

At a cost of over R400 you may argue that it is expensive, and you would be right. However, if I had to ask you ‘How much is the privacy of your data worth to you?’ you may have a change of mind and realise that R400 is a small price for piece-of-mind. Before long, however, there will be alternatives that will cost anywhere from nothing to not more than R100. Pricing strategy needs to go back to the drawing board.

Conclusion

Norton Mobile Security is a simple, no-mess no-fuss application. It is also one of those applications you can’t afford to be without and, should you ever need to use it, you will be grateful you made the investment.

* Follow Sean on Twitter on @seanbacher

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