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By Ryan Noik 8 August 2011

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With the proliferation of smartphones and tablets, it is only a matter of time before associated online threats that have affected PCs and notebooks infiltrate the operating systems and more importantly, behavior patterns of mobile users. With this in mind, Symantec recently introduced its Norton Mobile Security software that is aimed at stopping mobile threats in their insidious tracks.

Installation and Interface

The one irony we found in installing mobile security on our 10.1 Galaxy Tab (running Android 3.1) is that we had to accept non-verified Android apps - and the associated warning that our device would be more vulnerable to digital threats -  in order for installation to commence.

Beyond this hurdle, installation was a breeze. Navigating to a web page and downloading the software took a few seconds, and installation then prompted us for our license key. Additionally, the software, which is compatible with Android 2.0 and above, worked without any issues on our later version of Android.

The clean and uncluttered interface then presented us with several options in a list form, namely Anti theft, Anti-Malware, Call and SMS blocking, and Web Protection.

Anti-theft

Anti-theft enabled us send a text message to our device, in the event of it being lost or stolen, with a password of our choosing, to locate the device, lock it or wipe it of all its data. Additionally, this feature further gave the option to add ‘trusted buddies’ who could similarly send a text message to the phone or tablet to unlock it on one’s behalf in case one forgets the password. It allowed for up to five buddies to be added, however, these had to have associated mobile numbers. Buddies were then selected from one’s existing contact list on the mobile device.  

Additionally, anti-theft also gave the option of wiping the device of its data after ten unsuccessful password attempts.

Anti-malware

Anti-malware, like its anti-virus counterpart on the PC, scanned our device for malware, in the background. While the software warned that setting it to scan any included SD cards could slow down the device, we found no discernible impact when running  the anti-malware scan. Additionally, the scan took an impressive 17 seconds to run through 197 files.

Call and SMS blocking

The call and SMS feature was similarly uncomplicated. The function enabled us to create a block list, using our contacts, call logs, SMS logs or input our own number, as the basis for whom would be blocked from communicating with our SIM card.

Web Protection

The final feature on offer, web protection, was as straightforward as its name suggested. We could elect to either turn it on to block fraudulent sites, or leave it off and browse without the software’s protection. Additionally, the software does allow one to continue to a blocked site if the user believes the website is safe, and instead, kept the site accessible for 30 minutes.

The only other features on offer were a live update function which ensured that we had the latest definitions and an activity log, which recorded all activity performed by the software with a time stamp.

Performance

There are no bells or whistles on Norton Mobile Security. The software itself is easy to install, simple to use and intuitive throughout the features it has on offer. Our biggest concern was how installing a security suite on our device would affect its performance. The tablet’s performance and speed remained unaffected, with no discernible slowdown in web browsing or general navigation.

To the point

Along with its 1.97 MB in size, excluding data, which was a measly 232 KB after running all of the above features, the app consumed 16 MB of memory. While this is not small for a mobile app, we found it to be a worthwhile trade off to have a contingency plan in the event of losing our device or being subjected to the one in every 281 infected emails or abundance of infected websites that Symantec recently warned of.

Verdict

While thousands can easily be spent on smartphones and tablets, an app like Norton Mobile Security is much like insurance - you hope you never need it but are grateful for having it when you do. With its simple, straight-forward interface and ease of use, and comparably tiny price R400 when compared to the hardware, Norton Mobile Security is one of those apps that we consider a wise investment in protecting the integrity of one's data.

Pros

Simple interface
Quick to download and install

Cons

Relatively large memory usage for an app, pricey.

PROS
Simple interface, quick to download and install.
CONS
Relatively large memory usage for an app, pricey.
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