A FREEBIE FROM SYMANTEC

Norton Security products are a boon or a blessing, depending on who you talk to: Joy thinks they’re great; Bob thinks they are evil destroyers. The latest is Norton 360, which you can try for free through February. It’s billed as a rival to Microsoft’s OneCare and has an unusually simple interface. There are four large buttons to click: PC Security, Transaction Security, Tune Up, and Backup and Restore.

PC Security covers anti-virus, firewall, anti-spyware, plus a few other protective routines. Transaction Security protects you from being whisked away to a so-called “phishing” site, a Web site that imitates a legitimate one but is designed solely to collect your personal information. Something like 90 percent of such sites pose as financial institutions. (We regularly get requests to correct our information from banks we’ve never even heard of.) The last two button functions are pretty much self-explanatory, and if a problem comes up, you just have to click a new button that says “fix now.”

PC Security wasn’t so good at eliminating spyware, but we gave them a pass on this as all the anti-spyware programs we’ve run tend to find different spies. We run Spybot: Search and Destroy and Ad-Aware SE Personal every day. Both are excellent and free from download.com. They found plenty of spyware that Norton missed.

Still, it’s all for free right now at Symantec.com. Just remember: It’s a beta version, and sometimes there are bugs.

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