Symantec is embracing product activation technology with Norton AntiVirus 2004, to "protect users from pirated or counterfeit software".
This is the first time the security software giant has introduced product activation. In due course it plans to introduce the technology across its entire consumer product line.
Del Smith, senior product manager at Symantec, told The Register that the technology will stem "large scale pirating" of its software. According to Symantec, 3.6 million units of bootleg Symantec software are sold per year.
According to Smith this figure does not include loses from software downloads and is a "conservative" estimate. Symantec doesn't say how much this piracy costs the company in lost revenues.
"Our primary motivation for introducing product activation is to protect our customers but it's probably true to say that we probably wouldn't have introduced the technology but for the problem we have with large scale counterfeiting," he said.
Symantec's product activation process is similar to that of Microsoft Windows XP. The product activation technology is licensed from a third party, which Symantec declines to name for "security reasons".
According to the company its product activation process is so simple and unobtrusive that users won't resent it.
After installing Norton AntiVirus 2004, users get 15 days grace to activate the product; the program won't work after the deadline unless the activation is completed.
A software wizard takes users through the activation process. Users are prompted to enter a software key and the wizard sends this key and the configuration of a PC to Symantec's servers that respond with a code that activates a user's package.
To enable hardware upgrades or load the software on new PCs, users can run through the product activation process a maximum of five times. However Smith stresses
that the licensing terms of NAV 2004 are not changing with the introduction of product activation. Users are still only permitted to load a copy of Symantec's anti-virus toolkit on one computer or laptop.
When Microsoft introduced product activation with Windows XP many expressed fears over privacy implications as well as the ability of the technology to cope with basic changes of configuration in PC hardware.
According to Smith, more than 250,000 users had completed the NAV product activation process in trials involving English language downloads of NAV 2003 "without complaints".
Symantec keeps data from its product activation process separate from registration information, he added.
The company plans to introduce the activation technology across all English-language versions of its 2004 consumer product range, including Norton SystemWorks, Norton Internet Security, and Norton Personal Firewall.
Inside the box
Norton AntiVirus 2004 is scheduled for wide availability in early September. The upgrade adds protection for consumers against some emerging non-virus threats such as spyware and keystroke logging programs. Norton AntiVirus 2004 will identify and block these threats at the point of entry to the system, detecting the threats during scans of email and instant message attachments, or during scheduled or on-demand system scans.
Norton AntiVirus 2004 supplies added protection for
Windows 2000/XP against viruses lurking in compressed files of the type exchanged when using peer-to-peer networks or instant messaging.
Norton AntiVirus 2004 is also available as a professional edition. This incorporates a data recovery component to restore damaged or accidentally deleted files. Also included is a data-cleaning tool which shreds deliberately deleted files.
In addition, Norton AntiVirus 2004 Professional will include a two-computer licence. For small businesses, Norton AntiVirus 2004 Professional will also be available for purchase in small office 5-packs (at $199.95) and 10-packs.
Norton AntiVirus 2004 and Norton AntiVirus 2004 Professional will be available for an estimated retail price of $49.95 and $69.95, respectively. Prices include a one-year subscription to Symantec's protection updates. Upgrades from older versions of Norton AntiVirus and competitive antivirus products to NAV 2004 will cost from $29.95. ®