Norton 360 Deluxe review: A rare feature-filled security product for Mac

Norton 360 Deluxe has a lot of offers users, but we did find one issue with protection.

Credit: Symantec

Most companies that are primarily PC antivirus vendors treat their Mac software as an afterthought. They cover the basics for security, but extra features are few and far between.

That's not the case with NortonLifeLock (formerly Symantec). It offers a lot of value for Norton 360's $50 per year for new subscribers or $100 per year for returning customers. For that money, Norton 360 Deluxe covers up to 5 devices including Macs, PCs, smartphones, and tablets. And it offers a lot more to Mac users than just malware protection. It also brings with it a password manager, free VPN access, parental controls, 50GB of cloud backup, and so-called dark web monitoring. On top of that there's the Clean function for getting rid of duplicate files, old application files, and more.

norton360scans IDG

Norton 360 Security Deluxe with a finished scan.

Norton 360 includes multiple applications. It starts with the My Norton application, which is just a launcher for the important stuff including Device Security, the VPN, Password Manager, and Cloud Backup. There are also links to Parental Controls and dark web monitoring on the Norton website. Device Security is the main application, which houses all the virus protection.

Taking a look at AV-Test's March 2020 Mac malware tests, Norton Security scored 100 percent against 58 samples in the widespread and prevalent malware test. That's the  score you want, but it is against a small sample size.

AV-Comparatives' most recent Mac security test from June 2019 didn't cover Norton, which is too bad since its test includes Windows malware detection.

In our spot tests with the Objective See malware repository Norton had no trouble dealing with the malware we found there. The only complaint we had was that Norton wasn't notifying us when it detected malware. Instead, it just deleted or quarantined the suspicious file. We had to open the security history log just to see what Norton did. A few days later, however, Norton started notifying us of issues. We did allow notifications immediately, but for some reason it took a few days for Norton 360 to catch up. We haven't seen that with other antivirus products.

adobeinstaller1 IDG

Most people wouldn't take it this far, but it's still important your antivirus acts as a backstop for edge cases like this.

After the Objective See test we did something unusual since testing was so sparse. We visited a torrent site that often has rogue adware just to see what would happen. As soon as we landed on the site it offered to install Adobe Flash Player. That, right there, is a massive flag since rogue Adobe downloaders are a common tool for malware delivery.

So we did what any curious tech site would do and went through the installation process. Of course macOS was screaming at us the entire time that we definitely shouldn't be installing this, but we wanted to see how Norton would handle it.

Long story short, it didn't. The supposed Adobe Flash player installed without a peep from Norton, and it installed a rogue version of the Opera browser to boot. A full scan didn't reveal that we'd installed malware, and the security history showed that Norton 360 didn't take any action.

norton360detection IDG

After we notified NortonLifeLock, Norton 360 Deluxe now detects the problematic malware we found.

It's at this point we need to mention that we alerted NortonLifeLock to the issue, and Norton 360 can now detect this malware. At the time, however, this was not the case.

Once the rogue programs were installed, we uploaded the original installation file to VirusTotal to see what multiple engines had to say about it. Unbelievably, most antivirus engines didn't catch it with the exception of a few including AVG, Avast, and Kaspersky.

Based on those results we looked up the malware and at first we thought it was just annoying adware, as well as Qsearch a well-known browser hijacker. Then the rogue copy of Opera started up all on its own, and Norton's firewall caught it trying to open a port. Not great, but kudos to the firewall for stopping this.

In the real world very few people would actually install this software since macOS protests so much. Still, Norton should've been a backstop for those edge cases where people ignore all the warnings and plunge ahead or, as Appleinsider reported, users follow unusual instructions.

norton360clean IDG

Norton 360 Security Deluxe's Clean feature.

In addition to antivirus, Norton packs its own firewall with a good amount of customizability if you want it. It can block incoming and outgoing connections based on applications, ports, and IP addresses. The default settings should be fine for most people, but advanced users can tinker with the firewall if they want.

The newest addition to Deluxe Security is the Dark Web Monitoring powered by LifeLock—a company NortonLifeLock acquired in 2016. Several antivirus suites offer dark web monitoring, which basically scans suspicious Onion sites and online forums for leaked databases of credit cards, usernames, passwords, and other personal information. For this feature to work you need to tell the service what to monitor such as your bank account or credit card number, phone, address, drivers license number, insurance details, gamertags, emails (up to five addresses), and mother's maiden name.

Bottom line

Norton 360 Security Deluxe offers a lot for the money, though that failed detection does give us pause. Most people won't find a problem with Norton, but if you are visiting questionable corners of the web (and prone to ignore Apple's built-in warnings) then Norton may not be the suite for you. Anyone looking for something comprehensive, however, should give Norton 360 Security Deluxe a look.

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Ian Paul
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