Technology Leadership

The Last Line of Defense

Norton Security’s powerful remediation tools clean up any threats that might slip through

When it comes to Internet security, it’s always better to be proactive. Remediation — or removing threats that have found their way onto your computer — is often a much bigger challenge than prevention, because there’s so much more fallout that inevitably comes from malware getting onto a system.

Consider this: 2014 saw the creation of roughly 317 million new pieces of malware — fully 26 percent more than the year before. One out of every 244 emails sent in 2014 contained malware, often disguised as a harmless-looking clickable link.

And once this malware is on your computer, just about anything can happen. It might be something relatively benign, like seeing annoying adware pop-ups whenever you try to surf the Web. Or maybe your machine will be used to conduct distributed denial-of-service attacks to crash other websites.

Worst-case scenarios include the installation of a password-stealing keylogger, or even falling victim to a ransomware attack, where your computer is held hostage until you agree to pay whoever hijacked it. (There were 8.8 million of those attacks in 2014 — more than double 2013’s total.) The threats are everywhere, and they are real. And a surprising number of computer users leave themselves wide open.

“One of the key reasons peoples’ machines get infected in the first place is that they had inadequate protection to begin with,” says Jordan Blake, Principal Product Manager for Norton. “A lot of our customers first buy our products specifically to resolve a pre-existing infection.”

But occasionally, malware infects even Norton customers. This is most common when the user manually deactivates the Norton software. A much more rare occurrence is an attack that slips past the multi-layered protection Norton Security delivers to its customers.

When that happens, it’s too late to worry about protection. Instead, Norton Security shifts its focus to remediation.

“Once a system has become infected, it will have to be disinfected to restore it to a safely usable state,” Blake explains. “That falls under remediation, which is a completely different process from protection.”

Remediation: The fail-safe

Norton security’s approach to remediation is a two-pronged one. First it uses proprietary software tools to break the grip of malware on a person’s machine. If that doesn’t work, Norton customers enjoy access to live Norton virus remediation experts who can usually disinfect devices remotely, all while staying secure in the knowledge that they are protected by a money-back guarantee.

Often, the remediation process begins with using Norton Power Eraser to scan a user’s system.

“Norton Power Eraser uses an aggressive scanning engine to figure out what’s going on in a system,” Blake explains. “Essentially, it uses advanced heuristics and reputation information to determine what looks bad and then eliminates anything suspicious.”

At the top of Norton Power Eraser’s target list are hacking tools known as rootkits, which are malicious pieces of software that are designed to worm their way under a user’s operating system. They’re often placed in spots where most security software products don’t or can’t look for them. As a result, they are typically able to acquire a deep level of control over your hardware and can be very difficult to clean off.

Norton Power Eraser disconnects rootkits as a user’s system boots during the startup process. It looks for other potential threats during startup as well, and can run as a standalone process or as an integrated part of a complete system scan.

“Power Eraser is a crucial part of the remediation process, but it’s also a very powerful tool that we do not recommend for everyday use,” Blake cautions. “But if your system is infected, there’s a good chance we can use Norton Power Eraser to address the problem.”

But what happens when malware is preventing your computer from booting up at all? In that case, Norton Power Eraser by itself isn’t going to be effective, simply because it won’t ever get a chance to run.

“Maybe something is preventing your computer from booting by interfering with the operating system,” he says. “Often, there is just no way to fix a problem like that from within the operating system itself. Norton Bootable Recovery Tool (NBRT) will be able to work around that, even on an otherwise un-bootable machine.”

NBRT works in conjunction with Norton Power Eraser, but it does so from outside the operating system itself. Instead, NBRT loads its own operating system from an external bootable source, like a USB key or CD-ROM drive. Sometimes, that change in perspective is exactly what’s needed to disinfect a corrupted machine.

So if these remediation tools are so powerful, why does the Norton team worry about prevention at all? There’s a trade-off. While Norton remediation tools are very powerful, they often do require a little more technical knowledge than the average user is likely to have.

“Malware leaves a lot of traces in a lot of different places, and that won’t necessarily be obvious to a novice user,” Blake says. “Most users won’t be able to tell the expected from the unexpected when it comes to figuring out what’s going on inside a given computer.”

With you every step of the way

If all that sounds a little intimidating, don’t fret. Norton users don’t have to run these processes on their own. They can get help from an expert remediation technician, who logs into a corrupted system and uses these and other tools to conduct repairs.

“The idea is that an expert will take care of this remotely, in the event that you don’t feel like you have the skills or knowledge to do it yourself,” Blake says. It’s this combination of powerful software and expert support that enables the Norton team to offer the Virus Protection Promise — a money-back guarantee that Norton software will help keep a customer’s device virus-free.

“You as the customer should be confident in our ability to protect your computer,” Blake adds. “You cannot get this from freeware. It’s just impossible for them to handle from a business perspective.

“You’ve got the software itself, the services to back it up, and the guarantee on top of it all,” he continues. “We could only afford to do that if we were supremely confident in our ability to protect our customers.”

Security Experts

It takes a non-stop operation to stay one step ahead of the more than 80,000 new malware threats that appear every day. Meet the seasoned security experts on our STAR team, who spend their days battling on the frontline of digital crime.

Service & Support

With a team of over 1,700 customer care experts dotted around the globe, Norton ensures easily accessible support no matter your location. In fact, we’re so confident in our award-winning protection and quality support services that we offer a money-back guarantee. 

Heritage & Reputation

We have an extensive security history and our pioneering spirit continues today. Our digital world is constantly changing, so at Norton we never rest. We’ve protected our customers and their data for 25 years — and we’re going to keep doing just that.

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