Norton By Symantec Just Launched Its Own VPN Service For Mobiles

Virtual private networks (VPNs) have existed for years, both as a legitimate tool for business users to make secure connections to their corporate networks remotely and for consumers to circumvent geo-blocking on overseas content websites like Netflix. People also use VPNs to encrypt their traffic when pirating copyrighted content. Now a major security vendor, Norton By Symantec, is entering the already crowded VPN market with its Norton WiFi Privacy offering for mobiles. Here's how it differs from the other VPN services.

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There are plenty of PC and mobile device VPN providers out there so why would Norton By Symantec want to join the fray? And why on Earth does it not mentioned 'VPN' in the name of its VPN product?

Firstly, Norton By Symantec is hoping that being a reputable brand will give it an edge in the VPN space as many of the existing providers are small operations that are nowhere near as well-known. Love it or hate it, people know the Norton By Symantec brand.

Secondly, the consumer product isn't being marketed as a tool for circumventing geo-blocked content or for piracy. Obviously, these are… ahem… very bad things that a legitimate organisation would not ever condone. Norton WiFi Privacy is being sold as an offering that can protect users from snoops on public WiFi networks.

WiFi hotspots are everywhere these days and it's easy to just tap a few buttons on your phone to connect to one of them when you're out. These connections are often unsecured but many people still access personal email, social media and even banking accounts on these public WiFi networks. Even if you access content on websites that use HTTPS, there is still a risk that cybercriminals can steal your information.

Using a VPN to facilitate a connection on public WiFi networks is one way to combat this but there are consumers that don't understand what a VPN is and how to use it. So while the Norton WiFi Privacy name doesn't contain the term 'VPN', it is a VPN. The name just makes it more accessible to those who don't understand the technology.

As with any VPN service, there is always going to be some latency when you access online content. Norton WiFi Privacy tries to ensure that performance doesn't suffer too much by allowing users to pick to make a connection with the closest hosting location. Yes, one of the locations is Australia. You can turn off the service if you're concerned about performance issues when streaming content that doesn't necessarily require an encrypted connection.

In terms of privacy, Norton By Symantec said it's not logging any data on the service and users are free to do as they please with the VPN.

The Norton WiFi Privacy is available on iOS and Android with an annual subscription fee of US$29.99 per device. It should be mentioned that both iOS and Android have built-in feature that lets you set up your own VPN connection when you set up your home computer to be a VPN server. But if you don't want to jerk around with the settings and you don't mind paying that an annual fee, you can try the new Norton product. It is free for the first 30 days.

Bear in mind that Norton By Symantec is only offering this on mobile devices. Other VPN providers can do both. If you want to find a list of VPN providers, hit the link to see our list.


Comments

    The app in the Android store is called "Norton WiFi Privacy Secure VPN"

      Hi registradus,

      Yes, but if you look at the marketing that is done around the app, the company has avoided using "VPN": http://au.norton.com/wi-fi-privacy

      This was also a point of discussion at the media briefing that occurred today.

      Hope this helps!

      Cheers,

      Spandas

    And Norton also just bought Bluecoat - so they can now MITM anything you do with even more ease. Including your bank transactions. Very open to US government spying requests.

      jayd- good questions... man-in-the-middle (MITM) is exactly why we should use VPN's but here are some expert answers:
      First, there was always this exact same risk with whatever ISP you ever had. Many ISP's use transparent (hidden) proxy devices to control/shape traffic. But so what?
      Second, there is nothing special about Bluecoat - any good proxy device can support man-in-the-middle (MITM) features/attacks. I know how it works, I did MITM on Bluecoat (and others) at work for 10 years now. There are legitimate reasons to support that. BC just makes it relatively easy for IT teams to make it work.
      Third, they can only do MITM legitimately when you have 'trusted' their digital certificate from the proxy. Users will not have automatically trusted norton/bluecoat certs on their devices so there is no risk of secret MITM without you allowing it. Real hacker MITM attacks (on HTTPS proxies) depend on either exploiting a broken cert you already have on your device or inserting a new one (which should create an alert). While you can suspect Norton *could* do that, my bet is they would get spotted immediately and lose their business in court. So, let's say some negative motivation there. Unlike hackers they make money just fine without robbing you (this way). :D
      Fourth, in the U.S. the government would need to get a FISA warrant to compel Symantec to surrender this info (as with any company) and only inside the U.S. Microsoft just sued and won against such a request for data outside the U.S. even with a valid U.S. warrant. So Symantec will be aware of this and aware they are not compelled to surrender outside-U.S. data.
      Lastly, the NSA does not depend on Symantec to access your data if they want it. They will have hacked your ISP or your bank directly and your device specifically if you are a high profile target.
      You aren't. Unless you are into some really sick stuff I wouldn't worry about them. I have some personal experience there too.

      Last edited 23/08/16 2:50 am

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