A quick definition for you. Muppet: either one of many of a collection of loveable puppets created by Jim Henson and loved by millions of people across the globe or anybody who connects a computer to the Internet without adequate protection.

You get my drift. It seems amazing in this day and age that there are still people out there who don’t use any form of protection when surfing, mailing or networking.

Every few weeks there seems to be a new scare in the media, and let’s face it, if it’s making the Ten O’clock News it must be pretty serious, right? With identity theft on the increase and the world being full of unscrupulous operators generally, you know it makes sense to batten down the hatches when setting sail on the great ocean of information that is the web.

Security suites come in all manner of guises and price brackets, and Norton from Symantec is probably one of the best known. But does fame bring reliability? I’ve used a variety of packages from different manufacturers and Norton has always been a trusted option.

It’s a one-stop shop giving you a personal firewall, anti-spam and antivirus protection as well as privacy software to protect any innocents you have in the household. (With the Internet porn industry generating an estimated $12 billion last year, that’s a serious amount of smut out there).

Installing any Symantec product is generally straightforward. But, in this case it’s very important that you remove any previous security packages. Norton comes with tools to help you remove other software as you install, but I would recommend removing everything beforehand and running a registry cleaner to remove any stubborn file extensions. Failure to do this could result in conflicts, leading to flaky performance and problems with the installation.

As you begin, you are given the option to install with account management and privacy controls. If you need to restrict internet access for any reason - parental supervision for one - this is the way forward. Other users can skip this, which means that your system isn’t burdened with stuff you don’t need - a welcome change in my opinion. A quick system scan also runs as a precursor to the main installation. Any major problems with your security will be picked up here and appropriate steps taken.

The step by step wizards take you through activation and configuration of the basic services, such as firewall and antivirus. It can seem as though you are bombarded with pop-ups warning of various security risks. Most of the time this is just Norton paranoia flagging legitimate programs that you normally have running. But, always read the messages fully - you never can be too careful.

An improvement on previous incarnations is the anti-spyware measures - a very welcome addition with the seemingly endless march of spyware (unwanted and unauthorised monitoring software that transmits your browsing habits to third parties) into the world’s computer systems.

In some respects this is very forgettable software. That is: once installed, you can forget all about it. It runs quietly in the background until something happens to rouse it. Then a pop-up message tells you what has happened and what Norton recommends you should do. By following these recommendations you can be sure that your system’s integrity is protected at all times. By scheduling events such as full system scans you can protect yourself further. As part of the package you get a year’s subscription to live updates from Symantec’s security centre.

You will have a few days or maybe weeks of bedding-in time when the software gets used to your working practices - the firewall actually learns as it goes along, and after while you won’t even notice it’s there. I found Norton much less intrusive than some of its competitors’ products.

The software looks much nicer this year - it is more in keeping with XP generally and navigating around it simplicity itself.

Advanced users will want to explore all the options to tailor the package to individual requirements.

Price when reviewed:

One minor grumble is the anti-spam components rather stringent selection - I spent ages telling it that emails from friends, family and trusted sources were not spam, but I guess this is just being picky - it probably adheres to a “better safe that sorry” policy.

I Also tried running a few online security checks both from Symantec and a few of its competitors and my system was all but invisible.

So, in general, Norton Internet Security 2006 is straightforward and reassuringly secure.

Simple to set-up and unobtrusive security suite to keep the whole family safe while connected to the Internet.