Norton AntiVirus

A cure worse than the disease!

Page Last Revised: Friday, April 28, 2006 01:12 PM

Most of us purchase anti-virus software to protect against the damage that a computer virus might cause to our machine, and the subsequent expense and inconvenience of restoring an entire system from scratch. However, most of us are also fortunate enough to not have experienced such a disaster, nor to have needed to test the efficacy of our anti-virus software in preventing such a situation. We rely heavily on the product test reviews in magazines in our selection of such software, and we expect the software to perform as represented.

However, expectations and reality are not always the same thing.

From approximately January through July of 2000, almost every second virus definitions update obtained from Symantec for their "Norton Antivirus" product caused a variety of problems that have "crashed" the computer system, corrupted the system registry, prevented the system from being rebooted into Windows without manual repairs being made at the MS-DOS command level, created huge files (e.g. 3-10 GIGABYTES!) using up all the free space on the C: drive, with unknown contents, and generally behaved with all the destructive force of the worst imaginable computer virus attack. These problems continued, unacknowledged and unaddressed by Symantec, for many months, and (despite statements by Symantec that the "non-existent" problem has been finally solved) are still being reported by users today.

Although Symantec continues to delete the myriads of customer complaints posted to their "technical [non-]support" pages in respect to these issues [allowing them to revert to their standard "No one else has reported any problems --- it must be that your system is incompatible" response], a visit to any of their "support forums" will show that these problems (and Symantec's refusal and/or inability to deal with them) continues to date.

As a result of this "anti-virus" program, many Symantec customers have been forced to spend an inordinate amount of time recovering from the damage caused by Norton Antivirus --- until they finally realize the only solution is to remove the Symantec virus from their machine for good. This from a program that allegedly will protect us against similar damage from a "real" virus, that might happen once in a lifetime. Of course, when and if that virus attack does occur, this product may not protect us from it at all. After all, it only protects (sometimes) against "known viruses". [The "heuristics" for detecting "unknown viruses" do nothing but trigger false alarms, providing absolutely no real protection against true threats.] Not a very good trade off, in my opinion.

Ironically, most of us have never had a virus attack (and have no way of knowing whether or not we are really protected should one occur).  So, NAV's protection has only been theoretical for many of us, whilst its damage has been all too real.  

If Symantec can't even get a simple update program to work properly without causing so many severe problems, and won't even acknowledge the full scope of the problem, much less take the necessary steps to fix it, how can we trust them to protect us from viruses, or perform any of the other (more difficult) tasks which give them access to our vulnerable system files? 


Carl D. Goldin

Postcript, 25 July 2000: I note that Symantec has now announced NAV 2001.  This is typical.  First they introduce a HUGE problem, and then come out with a "new" product, knowing that naive fools will rush to purchase it in hopes that the (as yet unsolved) problem will go away.  And, perhaps it will --- assuming the entire thing was a marketing ruse! Someone once suggested that Symantec and McAfee may be the ones creating all these "viruses" and "virus scares" to sell their product. [After all, they are the only ones who have ever profited from the proliferation of a computer virus!] Although an undying cynic, I was loathe to believe such a dastardly plot.  Now, I am giving the theory serious consideration.

Postscript, 22 January 2001: Since these problems are only experienced by about 15 % of their users, and NONE of their corporate accounts, I have become convinced that it is deliberate sabotage by Symantec directed at a selected subsection of their customers, in hopes that you will call their "pay-per-incident" or "pay-per-minute" "technical support hotline".  They believe that their large advertising budget and bought-and-paid-for "awards" and favorable reviews in the media will counteract any bad publicity from the product's flaws.  And they rely on the fact that most of today's users are not that knowledgeable about computer software to realize the cause of the problems.  

Postscript, 22 April 2004: Since the time I originally posted this page, we have seen NAV2001, NAV2002, NAV2003, and NAV2004. Nothing has been fixed, and new problems have been introduced! The same (and similar) problems are still being reported by thousands of users, and Symantec is still spending the majority of their resources advertising their product (and purchasing favorable "reviews"), whilst ignoring user complaints, and making absolutely no efforts to improve anything but the cosmetic appeal of their various products.

I would strongly recommend that you remove all Symantec products from your computer before they cause irreparable damage.  You may also be surprised how many "Windows problems" and mysterious crashes will disappear when you do so.  Unfortunately, Symantec has made the process of complete removal very difficult for the novice, and there will be a great deal of residual cr*p left in your registry and on your hard disk.  Fortunately, other than taking up valuable space, leaving the residual will do no harm.  


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