Starting next month, users of Symantec\u2019s Norton products will have a new tool to help them avoid unpatched software flaws.Called the Symantec Online Network for Advanced Response (SONAR), the new security software will look at the behavior of programs running on the computer in order to decide whether they are malicious. This is a departure from Symantec\u2019s traditional signature-based antivirus protection techniques, which compare the program\u2019s code to a database of known malware.SONAR will be a free add-on to Symantec\u2019s Norton AntiVirus 2007 and Norton Internet Security 2007 products, said Ed Kim, director of product management with Symantec\u2019s consumer business unit. "We\u2019re very excited about the release of SONAR," Kim said. "It\u2019s zero-day protection that doesn\u2019t rely on threat signatures."Zero-day attacks are based on flaws that are unknown, or have not yet been patched by the vendor, and they are particularly effective against signature-based antivirus protection. SONAR uses an algorithm to evaluate hundreds of attributes relating to software that is running on the computer, so it can spot malicious software, whether it\u2019s already been identified by Symantec researchers or not.SONAR makes its determination based on whether the software does things such as add a shortcut on the desktop or insert itself into the Windows Add\/Remove programs list, both of which indicate it probably isn\u2019t malware, Kim said.The software is built on technology that Symantec acquired in its 2005 purchase of WholeSecurity.Symantec already sells a similar behavior-based security product to enterprise users, called Critical System Protection, but with SONAR, Symantec is finally saying that its behavior-based techniques are ready for the consumer desktop market, said Andrew Jaquith, senior analyst with Yankee Group Research.The software comes not a moment too soon, he added. "Signature-based technologies for viruses and spyware certainly work, but their coverage is increasingly thin. So you need to bolster signature-based approaches with behavior-based approaches."Symantec is also readying new versions of its consumer software that will run on Microsoft\u2019s upcoming Vista operating system. On Wednesday, the company will ship versions of Norton Internet Security and Norton AntiVirus that are Vista-ready with other products to follow in the next few months.The Vista version of Norton Confidential will ship in early February, and Norton Save & Restore will be Vista-ready sometime after the operating system\u2019s late-January consumer launch, Kim said.Symantec\u2019s Norton 360 will support Vista when the next-generation consumer protection service ships. That is expected to happen in late February or early March, Kim said.-Robert McMillan, IDG News Service (San Francisco Bureau)Check out our CIO News Alerts and Tech Informer pages for more updated news coverage.