A test version of the next major update to the Norton 360 desktop security-and-backup suite is weeks away from launch, according to Symantec.

Norton 360 version 2.0 will include new web security and identity-theft protection features as well as a 'smart firewall' that will use behaviour-based analysis techniques to identify emerging threats. These security features are already shipping with Symantec's Norton Internet Security 2008 product, but Norton 360 will have a few tweaks designed to make it easier to administer as well.

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For example, the software can now be used to back up data to new types of devices such as iPods or Blu-ray drives, said Mark Kanok, a senior product manager with Symantec. "We changed up a couple of things to make it a little more accessible and give the advanced users more control," he said.

The new browser protection feature, formerly code-named Canary, blocks websites from installing malicious software via the browser, known as a drive-by download. These types of attacks are becoming increasingly common, security experts say.

New Firefox and Windows registry cleanup and features are also planned.

Norton 360 v.2 will also include the Symantec Online Network for Advanced Response (SONAR) technology, which identifies new forms of malware by analysing its behaviour, as well as the Norton Identity Safe software, designed to protect against phishing attacks.

Pricing for the Norton 360 v.2 will remain unchanged Kanok said. The new beta will ship by early January, at the latest, he said, with the final version shipping in March 2008.

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