Symantec has announced a range of new tools aimed at protecting Mac and iOS users from social networking and online threats. At its Next @Norton conference in San Francisco this week, the company unveiled a tool to secure MacBooks and iPads being used at Wi-Fi hotspots, an App Advisor for Facebook that indicates which apps are safe to install, and changes to its range of desktop security products for Mac and PC. 

Starting with the next versions of Norton Antivirus for Mac, Norton 360 and Norton One, Symantec will offer continuous updates to its desktop security software suite. Updates to virus definitions and patches will be automatically installed on the user’s machine, with no prompt to the customer asking them whether they wish their protection to be updated.

The company is also moving to a ‘versionless’ desktop security product line, meaning that the current 2012 versions of its Mac and Windows software will be the last to be so named. Although continuous updates will be offered, Symantec says product licensing will be unchanged, with both boxed and download versions of the software being sold as year-long subscriptions. An email reminder when the subscription is nearer renewal will continue to be issued. 

Norton App Advisor is being developed in conjunction with Facebook and seeks to address the issue of rogue apps using the social network to propagate themselves. Nishant Doshi, Symantec’s architect for security technology and response, outlined how in rogue Facebook apps, boxes are often hidden that capture information or trick the user into typing in specific words that are then posted on their Facebook profile. Forcing users to ‘like’ a product they haven’t actually got to try having been duped by a too good to be true offer was one such example. Another used a Captcha-style confirmation box to get the user to type the word ‘awesome’ – a phrase that then appeared as a comment, legitimising a seeded YouTube clip. 

Norton App Advisor will help identify apps on Facebook that use social engineering tricks to get users to post positive messages or request too much information or excessive Facebook account access rights. The tool will use information gleaned by Symantec on viruses and malware and stored in its Norton Insight database. 

The tool will complement rather than replace the Norton Safe Web for Facebook utility that was launched in 2010. This app checks for malicious links in posts on the social network site. 

Norton Hotspot Privacy, also demonstrated at the Next @Norton event this week, will provide a secure connection to a wireless hotspot. Available initially in the US and the UK, Hotspot Privacy will help protect iOS, Android, Windows and Mac users from Wi-Fi snoops and security vulnerabilities posed at internet cafes and other locations where the integrity of the wireless connection provided cannot be confirmed. 

Hotspot Privacy will be offered as a subscription-based service and will set up a virtual private network through which the user can safely connect to a Wi-Fi hotspot, but without needing to know complex details usually required to set up such a service. Symantec’s hotspot guard will instead self-install. Details of the subscription model for Norton Hotspot Privacy have not yet been finalised but the brief demonstration we were shown suggests users will be able to connect to a secure server in their choice of country. 

Symantec says it developed Hotspot Privacy as a result of research it conducted which found that Wi-Fi hotspot security was the chief concern of iPad and MacBook users. A solid 28 percent of survey respondents stated that they wanted a secure Wi-Fi connection tool. An exact time frame for the launch of Norton Hotspot Privacy, Norton App Advisor and the next desktop Mac and Windows security products has not been announced. However, Symantec has this week launched an online security portal called where users can learn more about the latest web threats and read articles about how to avoid social engineering tricks such as click-jacking and comment-jacking scams.