With the ever-increasing rise of viruses online, and the ever increasing amount of us with "always on" connections, it's not surprising that people like Symantec are championing its Security software to save the day. Protect your machine, they cry from the rooftops. They are always keen to be a speaker on the news when the next virus hits the web, but is the software really anything to shout about?

Norton Internet Security 2003 offers like Norton SystemWorks 2003, a complete package in one box. That box contains: Norton Antivirus, Norton Personal Firewall, Norton Privacy Control, Norton Spam Alert and Norton Parental Control.

The Antivirus software is, as you would expect, there to protect you from viruses floating around the web. It’s simple to use and if you have connection to the web you can keep up to date with latest virus definitions. Depending on the state of the world these definitions can update either on a daily or weekly basis and the whole process is unobtrusive to your every day computer use.

On install the system will automatically protect everything as well as offering support for your emails - both send and receive - as well as protecting Instant Messaging services from AOL, MSN and Yahoo! After the initial scan anything that is found is quarantined for you to evaluate and from here you can either chose to repair or delete accordingly.

Scanning a hard drive is fairly dependent on the amount of information and size of hard drive. We tested it on system with over 30Gb of hard disk and with plenty of files on it and it took about 20 minutes to get through the whole process.

Norton Personal Firewall is there to protect your privacy and stop intruders. The program now includes an improved Norton Intrusion Detection system, which is capable of stopping treats as they happen rather than merely suggesting and telling you that they are happening. The software also offers protection, like the antivirus software, to Instant Messenger programs.

General intrusions both incoming and outgoing can be blocked and computers on a network can also be protected. Settings can be customised and levels of security set although it was all to easy to merely shut down all the internet access and not get access to the web without really knowing what button we had pressed.

The package also includes features other than the standard in/out internet connection firewall and now you can block or filter spam, have control over pop-up windows, banner ads and other web distractions and even set parental permission if you are worried about your kids visiting sites that they perhaps shouldn’t.

Like SystemWorks, Norton has tried hard to improve the graphical usability of this package and it’s done a good job. If you own multiple Norton 2003 products they all interconnect and can all be accessed via the same simple menu system. Like other products, Norton Internet Security is regularly updated via the live update service.

Price when reviewed:

If you are looking for the whole security shebang then this certainly covers all the bases. If you are only looking for basic firewall protection then this probably offers too much are there are plenty of free alternatives like Zonealarm (www.zonelabs.com) or the firewall that is built into Windows XP that are just as good if not better.

Admittedly they won't come with the ad blocking or parental controls, but then if you're not bothered about then you're probably better going somewhere else. Norton is great for the newcomer - this will get you set up and safe within 20 minutes of getting it out the box and keep you that way for a year. If you are happy to shop around though and not too worried about all the bells and whistles then there are other alternatives.