With rivals like McAfee and Kaspersky also crowding in on the "cross-device" security space, Symantec on Tuesday released Norton Anti-Theft, the first in a series of planned cloud-based Norton security services for smartphones, tablets, and PCs.
Although other offerings are also out there for tracking and locating lost and stolen devices, Norton Anti-Theft focuses on delivering three key services in an easy to use way, contended Joe Keehnast, senior product manager at Symantec, in a briefing for Brighthand.
From a "Find Device" page that uses location-based information from GPS, you can view the last ten known locations of the lost device on a Google map, he told me.
Through a second capability, Click Report Lost, you can report the loss to Symantec, lock the device, issue a message to anyone who finds it, start remotely taking photos with the camera on the device, and produce an unlock code which you can then use directly on the device if you get it back.
A third feature, the Sneak Peek page, lets you view pictures that have been uploaded from your device, in hopes of discovering that you've left it at a restaurant or on the back seat of a taxi, for instance.
Symantec isn't selling Norton Anti-Theft in stores, but only online, Keenhast said. Initially, the service supports only Android OS smartphones, Android OS tablets, and Windows PCs, although Symantec is also looking at future support for other platforms, such as Apple iOS devices and Mac computers.
Separate software downloads are required for the three sorts of devices. However, the service "operates in a consistent way" across mobile devices and PCs, according to the Symantec exec.
Avoid the Trauma
"Losing a device can be very traumatic. We don't want people to have to spend time on figuring out how [the anti-theft service] works when something like that has just happened," he noted.
The first set of anti-theft services is based on results of a Symantec survey, which shows that people worry about losing not just their phones, tablets and PCs but also the information contained on those devices.
"Three out of four consumers are concerned about losing information residing on their mobile devices, with bank account information being the 'most concerning' among respondents at 45 percent," according to Keehnast.
"Once a device is lost or stolen, 34% would prefer to locate their device with a service that gives them control to locate and lock the device themselves."
'A Picture of the Creep' Would Come in Handy
Also according to the results, 59% said "a picture of the creep who stole their mobile device" would be the most valuable bell-or-whistle of all.
In addition, while 53% claimed that they "do not do anything embarrassing on their mobile devices," 47% admitted that they do. Men were twice as likely as women to admit to "embarrassing browsing histories."
Men were also twice as likely as women to have lost their phones, at the rate of 22% versus 10%, the survey by Symantec said.
Keehnast acknowledged that Norton Anti-Theft might not be all that useful in situations -- growing increasingly commonplace in urban areas like New York City and London -- where devices are grabbed by organized rings of thieves and then shipped overseas for repurposing.
The camera and GPS features on a device are not going to work if the gadget has been intentionally turned off by a crook, for example.
Protects Against 'Crimes of Opportunity'
In many cases, however, a device theft is simply a "crime of opportunity," and the person who snatches the gadget is not necessarily all that slick, according to the senior product manager.
Symantec, though, is exploring the possibility of adding a number of new features to Norton Anti-Theft in the future, including remote wake-up, for instance.
Symantec is also planning a series of other, still unannounced cross-device security services under its recently unveiled "Norton Everywhere initiative," Keehnast told me. Symantec already offers standalone security products for PCs, smartphones and most recently, tablets.
Meanwhile, Symantec archrival McAfee last week released McAfee All Access, a cross-device security offering with varying capabilities for Windows and Mac PCs and Android OS, BlackBerry OS, and Symbian smartphones and tablets. The safeguards for mobile devices include location and tracking of lost devices, for instance. Meanwhile, Kaspersky Labs has stated its intentions to release a cross-device security offering to be known as Kaspersky ONE on October 17.
You can use Norton Anti-Theft to protect up to three devices for $39.99, five devices for $59.99, and ten devices for $89.99. At the outset, Norton Anti-Theft is available only in the United States.
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