Windows users have always faced a host of threats to their privacy and safety when connecting to the Internet. Viruses, worms, Trojan horse...

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Windows users have always faced a host of threats to their privacy and safety when connecting to the Internet.

Viruses, worms, Trojan horse programs, adware, spyware, spammers, hackers, phishers — the list goes on and on.

For the most part, consumers have been forced to deal with those threats piecemeal. But Symantec’s new Norton Internet Security 2005 brings a comprehensive approach to fending off the bad guys.

Norton Internet Security combines several security programs to create a broad, integrated shield against the most common online hazards.

It starts with Norton Antivirus, one of the leading programs on the market for detecting malicious viruses that can delete your vital data, crash your PC, or take over your e-mail system to spread themselves to unsuspecting victims.

Like any good anti-virus program, Norton Antivirus regularly updates itself online so it can detect newly emerging threats. That capacity, of course, is only as good as the team of anti-virus experts who stand ready to analyze the latest virus threats and devise ways to thwart them. On that score, the Symantec Security Response team is among the best in the business.

Norton Internet Security 2005 got even better recently when Symantec added an anti-spyware capability.

Spyware is a category of malicious programs that secretly install themselves on your computer to track your Web habits, poach your documents and even take over your entire PC. Such nefarious activity is closely akin to computer viruses. So it’s only natural that good anti-virus experience would be helpful in identifying and removing the growing class of spyware menaces.

Similarly, there are growing risks from spammers who deluge Internet users with e-mail touting bogus products and pornography. Here, too, Internet Security 2005 employs Norton AntiSpam to offer a measure of protection by working with common e-mail client software to filter out the junk from incoming messages.

Norton’s Internet security shield extends still further with parental controls that give users the power to limit the kinds of Web sites and Usenet newsgroups that family members can visit. Separate screening categories for children, teenagers and adults give parents the power to fine-tune the filters for various accounts under Windows 2000 Professional and Windows XP.

(Alas, this suite is not available for Windows 95, 98 and ME. There is a Norton Internet Security suite for those operating systems, but it includes only some of the features discussed here.)

A separate function aims to safeguard personal data by blocking some users from supplying information such as names, addresses and phone numbers to Web sites, chat rooms and more.

Hackers can be foiled by yet another element of the security suite, Norton Personal Firewall, which monitors incoming and outgoing connections between the PC and the Internet. Though the Norton firewall is robust, I found it complicated and challenging to configure, raising questions about whether the average consumer will be able to use it to full advantage.

Though any firewall is better than none, especially for PCs hooked to the Net via a broadband connection, Symantec would do well to give users more immediately accessible guidance on which connections can be safely permitted and which should be rejected.

The estimated retail price of $79 for the suite puts it well within reach of most avid PC users. (See for details.)