Coming from one of the world’s most famous antivirus developers, Norton WiFi Privacy has a pedigree, but it lacks in many key areas, and it’s a far from stellar security option.
Norton is one of the biggest brands in network security, and many readers of this review will have used their antivirus tools at some stage. However, relatively few will have installed their VPN service.
Unveiled in 2016, Norton’s WiFi Privacy App, aka Norton Secure VPN, sought to capitalize on the growth of wifi connections via smartphones and laptops. And, if anything they were a couple of years late to the party.
A couple of years later, and it’s still going strong, offering a range of packages based around how many connections customers require, “bank-grade” encryption, no-log browsing, global access to websites and total privacy when using the web. Or, to put it another way – the basic VPN package that we’ve come to expect from the sector’s leading developers.
But are there any things which make Norton’s VPN more appealing than the competition?
From how to install Norton WiFi Privacy to its relevance for Chinese users, our Norton VPN review will look at every aspect of this leading Virtual Private Network. So read on and you’ll soon have all the information you need to make an informed decision about whether it’s the VPN for you.
Is Norton WiFi Privacy safe to use?
As with all VPNs, the question “is Norton VPN safe?”, doesn’t have a black or white answer. On one hand, their no logs policy is great and reassuring, and, unlike some other VPNs, their terms and conditions don’t contain any devious ways around this. Moreover, there’s no session logging of IP addresses, so your location should be kept private at all times.
However, be warned: Norton WiFi Privacy doesn’t have its own privacy agreement. Instead, it’s covered by Symantec’s general privacy statement, which states that “subscriber information and mobile device data” is collected for research and customer service purposes. Although there’s no mention of selling data to third parties, it’s not exactly a cast iron guarantee.
The lack of transparency doesn’t inspire confidence, which is a shame as the other security aspects of Norton VPN are reasonably solid. From bank-grade encryption to total anonymity, it delivers what most users need. DNS leakage stats didn’t show any red alerts, and the ad blocker is another handy feature. But we can’t get over the lack of detailed information about something as basic as server locations.
The lack of customization was annoying too. For instance, you can’t use individual kill switch settings, do much with ports, or even switch protocols. This is in line with Norton’s desire to keep things simple and user-friendly, but it feels very restrictive for veteran VPN users.
So yes, when you use your Norton WiFi Privacy login, you’ll be protected and anonymized pretty effectively – we’re confident about that – but there are some questions about how open Norton is, so our Norton WiFi Privacy Review can’t give them a totally positive assessment on safety.
Speed & Performance
Our speed tests found a moderate level of performance, which puts Norton VPN around the mid-range of global VPNs. Most American servers delivered download speeds of 25-30MBps, although global servers showed some variations, and upload speeds were much lower. Overall though, the speeds should be fine for most online activity.
One thing that surprised us is how hard it was to discover Norton’s server locations. It’s not something they promote clearly on their site, but when you dig into their documentation, it turns out they operate 28 servers around the world, with locations in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. Not bad, but not necessarily a huge spread of options.
In a way, that’s not a huge issue due to the way that the Norton WiFi Privacy login system is designed. When you fire up the VPN, it automatically selects the closest and fastest server without users needing to tinker around. You can work around this (but it’s a hassle), and the selections are pretty accurate.
But the bottom line with regards to speed and performance is that Norton VPN is average, nothing special at all.
How to download Norton WiFi Privacy
Norton VPN is available for Windows 10, as well as 7, 8, 8.1 and Vista, which gives it better Windows compatibility than some competitors. You can also download it for MacOS, Android phones, and iOS smartphones. Linux users will instantly see that they’ve been left out, which isn’t very impressive from Symantec.
However, if your platform is covered, no-one needs to worry about how to download Norton VPN. The process is simple and takes place via the Symantec website.
Just surf to the site, scroll down, choose the right package (see the pricing section below for more details), then click the “subscribe now” button. You’ll be taken to the billing section where you can complete the purchase and download the Norton WiFi Privacy software.
It’s worth noting here that you can also download the Norton VPN as part of the Norton Security bundle, so if you need to get virus protection and protect your browsing, it might be an attractive option.
How to install Norton VPN
When you’ve made your payment, you won’t need an IT qualification to know how to install Norton VPN. As with all Symantec products, the installer is very easy to use and intuitive, and you should have the VPN client up and running within a few minutes. After that, just type in your Norton VPN login and you’re good to go.
How to use it
As we have noted earlier, when the VPN has been installed it will automatically connect to the fastest nearby server, and there aren’t many custom options to configure how it works. Still, the client does provide plenty of information such as your IP address and virtual location, and you can easily turn both the ad blocker and the VPN itself on and off with big button toggles.
All of this will sound pretty primitive to long-standing VPN users, but this isn’t a product aimed at them. It’s aimed at entry-level users and does the job pretty well from that perspective.
Apps & Extensions
Every platform has its own Norton VPN app, and all of them are clearly laid out and easy to use. They also work together with other Symantec apps like Norton Mobile Security, Norton Anti-Virus and their Ad Blocker.
However, Norton falls down when it comes to browser extensions. In fact, Symantec hasn’t come up with specific extensions for browsers like Safari, Chrome or Firefox, so you’ll just have to extend VPN protection across your web connection in general, instead of shielding only your browsing activity. That’s a clumsy solution when many VPNs have slick extensions.
You can’t add Norton WiFi Privacy to external routers, either. This isn’t a surprise given the product’s generally lightweight feel, but it’s a problem for people with Smart TVs or consoles who want a VPN to protect those devices as well as their phones or computers.
Using Norton VPN for Netflix
While the Norton Secure VPN webpage promises “global access to all your favorite apps and websites,” this doesn’t apply to Netflix, one of the web’s most popular entertainment hubs. Netflix has recently introduced sophisticated measures to block VPN users, and their beefed up geoblocking features seem to have worked with Norton WiFi Privacy.
We could gain access via a couple of servers in the USA, but only on a very short-term basis, and not every time we tried to connect. And carrying out an end-run past the Netflix geoblocker via Europe or Asia seems to be totally out of the question.
When we did get through to Netflix via the VPN, the streaming speeds weren’t bad, and video quality was fine. Norton has also stated that they are working on bypassing Netflix’s systems, although they don’t appear to have had much luck so far.
In any case, there are much better options around for Netflix fans, especially those in Africa, Asia or Latin America.
Can you use Norton VPN for Torrenting?
Unfortunately, using Norton VPN for torrenting is also out of the question, which is another big negative. Probably due to their American location, Symantec is very strict about blocking all forms of P2P traffic via their VPNs. This includes every torrent client and other file-sharing services too. So, if you’re into torrenting, look elsewhere. This definitely isn’t the product you’ve been looking for.
Does Norton WiFi Privacy work in China?
Norton’s home page doesn’t say much about whether their VPN is useful for accessing the web in repressive countries, and it has explicitly been created for everyday use on standard wifi networks. So it’s not really a surprise to find that it won’t be much help for Chinese users.
Our contact in China found that Norton VPN did (sometimes) provide a workable level of web access. However, they weren’t confident that the VPN secured all of their traffic. Speeds were low and their connection dropped regularly – neither of which are encouraging signs.
Overall, we can’t recommend using this VPN in countries where censorship is a concern. Even if using Norton WiFi Privacy in free societies may be a handy tool, it’s not much use in China, North Korea or Iran.
Support is always a crucial aspect of any VPN, and you would expect a major company like Norton/Symantec to score pretty highly in this respect.
Sadly, they’ve dropped the ball a little in the support department. Live chat was a particular disappointment, being available intermittently, even during normal working hours. And even when you do reach a human being, they often seem to be sales staff, not IT specialists.
While Symantec’s documentation section has an impressive amount of content, we weren’t so taken with the lack of an email address or contact form. You can get in touch by phone, but the company’s support forums have been detailed to provide support, and we would prefer a direct line of contact.
We also looked at how responsive Norton is to customer criticism, so we asked their team via Facebook about how to cancel Norton WiFi Privacy a couple of days after signing up. Their response was efficient and informative, so we have no criticisms there. They also run a Twitter account which we found to be responsive. So while there’s no email and live chat isn’t great, finding assistance shouldn’t be hard.
Price is one area where we had major reservations. The basic 1 device monthly subscription for Norton Secure VPN costs $4.99 per month, followed by $7.99 for 5 devices and $9.99 for 10 devices. You can cut the cost a bit by paying annually. This reduces the cost of 10 devices to $3.33 per month (still quite a lot).
Norton offers plenty of bundle deals which can reduce the cost, as well as money off discounts. But overall, it’s a costly proposition, and if you don’t want to pay over the odds for Norton WiFi Privacy, free alternatives can do the job just as well. So why spend more?
There’s also no free trial for Norton Secure VPN – something that we found mystifying. However, we found that cancellations can function a little like a free trial.
If you’d like to cancel Norton WiFi Privacy, you’ll have to be careful. Norton doesn’t make it clear on their purchasing pages, but they operate a clear returns policy which applies to their VPN. You have to cancel within 60 days of the purchase to get a full refund. While this isn’t the same as a Norton VPN free trial, it’s not too dissimilar if you are willing to go through the refund process.
Conclusion of our Norton WiFi Privacy review
With the brand reputation of Norton behind it, you might expect Norton Secure VPN to be at the top of the tree when it comes to mass market VPNs. But it’s not like that at all. While this Norton VPN review can’t complain about the client and the speeds aren’t bad, Norton’s offering has security issues, poor app extensions, and average speeds, while using Norton WiFi Privacy for Netflix or torrenting is a no-go.