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Hands-on review: Norton WiFi Privacy

29 Aug 17

I’ll be honest, I wasn't that keen on installing a bit of Norton software on my PC. It’s been years since I last used any of Symantec’s tin-foil hat PC paranoia products. In the past, I’ve found that they do more harm than good, and at a premium.

Times have changed and things have moved on. Figuring that Norton WiFi Privacy couldn’t do anything to my PC that I wasn’t capable of undoing, I clicked install.

Norton and any of the other anti-virus and Internet security outfits would have you believe that they Internet is full of crooks and wierdos, waiting to infect you. Whilst I agree that the Internet is full of crooks and wierdos, you’ve got more chance of catching something off of a public toilet seat than the Internet.

Unless you like to click all the links or open attachments in emails from your “bank”, written in poor English, or have your username and password written on above the keyboard on your laptop, you are probably going to be OK (unless you are unlucky). Most people that have asked me to remove a virus from their PC, have just got an old machine full of junk programs.

Back to Norton WiFi Privacy. The top-level blurb says, “Protect your data with a no-log virtual private network (VPN) that encrypts your personal information and doesn’t track or store your online activity or location.”

Sound good?

Breaking things down, it uses “bank-grade encryption” to protect your information, a virtual private network to hide what you are looking at and where you are, access content faster (by changing your virtual location) and block ad trackers.

Scrapping away all the Internet paranoia propaganda, Norton WiFi Privacy installs a virtual private network (VPN) client on your device.

This means that your connection to the internet is encrypted and send, via your Internet service provider, to one of Norton’s servers. The website that you are visiting doesn’t know where you are and the ISP or Internet hotspot has no idea what information you are sending or what you are looking at.

Anyone that ties to intercept the WiFi traffic leaving your device over a public network will be treated to encrypted data that will only be dencrypted (apparently) when it reaches the Norton server that you select.

Getting it up and running is easy. You first need to sign up for a Norton account. You then type in the licence key, included in the retail pack, on the Norton website and select an option to either send a link to your other devices or just download the software and run it. It works on Windows, iOS and Android platforms. Windows users will find an icon for the program running in the tray next to the clock.

Tray options

The VPN may interfere with the likes of Netflix (which detects attempts to circumvent geoblocking) and sites that use your IP for security. For instance, I needed to switch the VPN off in order to be properly identified by Techday’s server security and post this review.

Interestingly, sites that can no longer be accessed in Australia (where I am based), in particular one that rhymes with “the irate day” became available, once more, when I switched the VPN to a US server.   

Far from protecting users from crooks and wierdos, Norton WiFi Privacy is just the software that crooks and wierdos need to cover up their Internet antics from prying nanny states and copyright vigilantes. If your government doesn’t want you to access a website, switch the VPN to a server in another country.

The downside of selecting a VPN server in another country is that your data will need to travel further, taking longer to get there and longer to get a response from the website that you want to visit. If you are just wanting to hide your online presence, selecting a local server will do the job.

Norton WiFi Privacy is an easy way to set up a virtual private network solution. Unlike many vendors out there offering similar services, Norton is a legitimate and well-known brand.  If you are accessing the internet via a public WiFi hotspot, especially if you are travelling abroad, using Norton WiFi Privacy for a bit of extra piece of mind, couldn't hurt.

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