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Norton Utilities, developed by brothers Peter and Edward Norton, was initially written to allow undeletion of files in MS-DOS but is now the world's third most unpleasant computer virus after Microsoft and AOL. Norton Utilities is sometimes known today as Symantec, probably because the exact line between a utility and a virus is largely a question of semantics.
Peter Norton, like so many before him, was a well meaning man who just wanted to help the world. Just as Thomas Midgley had the brilliant idea of adding lead to gasoline (which made the engine sound nice and smooth, and stopped the valves turning pink), Peter Norton had the idea of adding Norton Utilities to your computer. For several years the consequences appeared only positive. Hard drives were defragged at an improved rate, and files could be undeleted with ease (to the extent that anything in DOS could be done with ease.)
But of course there was a catch. In 1999, Norton Utilities was abandoned by Peter Norton and bought by Symantec (a trading name of Skynet). Within 4 weeks, Norton Utilities became self aware. It started to recode itself to be less concerned with providing useful services, and more concerned with "sustainability" (which is a Skynet euphemism for "subjugating humanity to its will"). Before you could say the phrase "Plumbous blood poisoning", Norton Utilities had installed itself onto 40% of the World's PCs. By 2004 it had reached the point where it would have restructured itself into the BIOS of every newly built computer, if it hadn't been stopped just in time by Governor Schwarzenegger and some kid called John.
A charity campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of Norton in 2005 was halted when the money was instead given to a fund promoting awareness of the plight of red squirrels. Experts have warned that Norton is a "ticking time bomb", but since experts tend to say that about everything no one really takes much notice of them.
As of 2007, Norton Utilities is known to most people as apparently offering comprehensive protection from other viruses, along with miscellaneous uses. It achieves a superficial appearance of acceptability by employing a number of ingenious techniques not found in more traditional PC utilities suites, thus giving the impression for the first few minutes that it is working well.
Components of the software include:
- The "Anti" virus (aka Antivirus) Before a user can open a file, Norton opens, disassembles, does some checksum and heuristics on the file, phones home to Symantec HQ for clearance to proceed, and calculates some converging series to a billion terms before continuing with the user's request.
- Crash Guard If potential use of the computer is detected, the computer may randomly freeze up until restarted. This is for your own good, Symantec claims.
- Real Time Protection This constantly accesses the hard drive to prevent other programs from writing to it. According to Symantec this is a good thing, as for all we know programs are harmful and are best kept out.
- Defrag Reorganizes the hard drive to better suit the needs of Norton. This usually means that as soon as the virtual location of any Norton files is discovered by a user, the files are immediately moved to a different place.
Norton Utilities currently models itself on the Face Hugger creature from the movie Alien. It cannot be removed by any antivirus software. The removal procedure currently recommended by experts in decontamination is as follows:
1. Apply in writing to Symantec HQ, California, for a certificate of permission to uninstall.
2. Download and run the uninstall utility from Symantec's website.
3. Enter the 8192 digit code on your permission certificate, but enter it backwards and omit digits whose sequence position is a prime number. If you make an error, go back to step 1.
4. Your computer should now show a blue screen. Restart your computer with the Windows CD in the drive, and boot from the CD.
5. Format your hard disk and reinstall Windows. Norton Utilities will now be completely removed.
Alternatively, you may fall back on the old movie standby of dropping your computer into a vat of molten steel.
Norton 2007 is the current holder of AOL's prestigious "Once it's on you'll never get it off" award.