Print 53 comment(s) - last by jonmcc33.. on Sep 30 at 8:10 PM

Microsoft releases its free antivirus suite

Microsoft first released a public beta of its Security Essentials antivirus suite back in June and it was met with mostly positive reviews. The public beta was only open for the first 75,000 downloaders and that limit was reached rather quickly.

Today, however, Microsoft has released the final version of Security Essentials and anyone running Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7 can download it for free. Microsoft Security Essentials offers basic antivirus, spyware, and malware protection -- it also offers real-time protection and regularly updated malware signature files via Microsoft's Dynamic Signature Service.

Since Microsoft Security Essentials provides the bare minimum protections for a Windows-based machine, other niceties such as a firewall and multi-PC management are not available. This should appease Microsoft's competitors in the anti-malware software segment.

Those who wish to try out the software can download it directly from the Microsoft Security Essentials website. The download requires that your PC pass Windows Genuine Advantage checks, so only legit Windows users will have access to the software.

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Very nice...
By Fox5 on 9/29/2009 12:27:21 PM , Rating: 5
I've been using the beta, and I've gotta say, this is way superior to any of the free competition. Probably better than most of the paid too.

Much lighter on resource usage, doesn't slow down the system like most AV, and it gets daily updates to its signature files, compared to the once in a while updates free AV gets. I'd say the Microsoft Security Essentials is in many way a superior product to the competition, and probably good enough for most.

In my own ad-hoc testing, it was way better than trend, norton, and mcafee, picking up virii they missed, and being able to remove infections they couldn't. The fact that it can suspend the windows desktop to remove virii without rebooting is a major advantage to microsoft, and probably something its competitors can't do. Seriously, way to go MS for offering a quality AV/malware scanner, I'd be all for this being integrated into windows like Defender was.

RE: Very nice...
By Maxima2k2se on 9/29/2009 12:36:18 PM , Rating: 2
They won't integrate this into windows. Then the other AV products really would sue lol :)

RE: Very nice...
By Mr Perfect on 9/29/2009 1:44:12 PM , Rating: 4
I really wish they could though. I'm floored every time someone brings me a PC to fix and it either has no AV at all , or has the expired 60 day trial version that shipped with it from the OEM.

RE: Very nice...
By void5 on 9/29/2009 1:45:08 PM , Rating: 2
REALLY interesting question: would removing software component from installation media and making it available as additional download (which of course does not support competitors' OS) qualify as "we are not including this feature in Windows" in a court (or for antitrust watchdogs)?

Guess we will find out soon enough.

RE: Very nice...
By bodar on 9/29/2009 2:57:31 PM , Rating: 2
That IS is essentially what the anti-trust officials want with IE, so it's a silly question. If it came pre-installed with Windows, then yes, people would be crying up a storm.

RE: Very nice...
By ChristopherO on 9/29/2009 3:36:31 PM , Rating: 3
Check AV Comparatives. They run the most thorough testing suite of any AV analysis available on the Internet. Forefront and One Care get average scores and are outclassed by most other scanners. Avast is the best free scanner, AVG has hit-percentages roughly equal with One Care. Granted MSE supposedly uses the same engine as One Care, but until AV Comp. updates their test, that won't be absolutely verified.

Most of the major vendors peddle products of 'baseline' reliability. A lot of the smaller shops hit reliability numbers several grades above anything the big companies put out. Mind you, given that MSE is free, they don't really need to compete. But McAfee's and Symmantec's assertion that their products are "better", are fairly soundly debunked when tested by the third party. Sure they add other features, but the core feature of any AV product is efficacy. I'd rather have a bloated UI on a product that worked than a clean one on one that didn't. Granted I'd rather have a clean one on a working product. I actually switched to Avast because of the results. I'd pick one of the others, but I just don't want a pay product given Avast is good enough, and the first product that supported x64 on a free AV platform.

RE: Very nice...
By ChristopherO on 9/29/2009 3:40:37 PM , Rating: 3
Granted MSE might hit 99.9% of the common viruses, which is technically all you need to protect a computer. The third parties need to run the test suites to verify how things changed.

Oh, and in medicine there is a term called 'herd immunity'. It also applies to computer science. If you get enough people inoculated against, say the flu, you can't spread it because every person with the flu isn't likely to run into someone else capable of getting it. Computer AV software is the same way. Sure, you can still do some damage, but it's not going to be a big number (relative terms).

RE: Very nice...
By lco45 on 9/30/2009 1:33:31 AM , Rating: 3
Actually you've uncovered the most interesting point.

Herd immunity is going to be the biggest benefit of all. I know many many people who don't run AV, or get a 12 month subscription and don't renew.

Having a free, auto-installed AV like this will greatly increase the percentage of AV coverage in the average community, meaning viruses will die out before reaching unprotected computers.

Macs already take advantage of this, because viruses spread via address contacts, and most contacts in a mac users address book are Windows users, so Mac viruses have trouble spreading.


RE: Very nice...
By lco45 on 9/30/2009 1:36:53 AM , Rating: 1
And before someone says "there are no Mac viruses", the main reason there are so few is exactly the herd immunity enjoyed by Macs as a minority OS in a Windows world.

Virus writers don't bother with Macs because their viruses fizzle out too soon. In other words, herd immunity reduces the reward of writing viruses in the first place, which compounds the benefit to the community.


RE: Very nice...
By jonmcc33 on 9/29/2009 4:49:04 PM , Rating: 1
They run the most thorough testing suite of any AV analysis available on the Internet.

Isn't that the company that requires the AV company to pay to be included in the tests?

Also, isn't it true that they don't even use actual viruses/malware in their testing? It's actually something like a database?

Lastly, isnt it true that they don't disclose what viruses/malware they test for?

Not exactly a reliable resource then...

RE: Very nice...
By ChristopherO on 9/29/2009 5:38:02 PM , Rating: 2
To the best of my knowledge that might be Virus Bulletin... They're one of those companies that you can publish their "award". They might be fully above board, but there is some advertising on their site.

AV Comparatives is a non-profit organization. Their testing methodology is also published in a 26 page PDF file. They also do the Consumer Reports model of no adverts.

I'd call them the most transparent resource for AV products out there. If they were biased, it would be news to me, since the companies with the most cash are good on some things, but never consistently near the top, across the board.

RE: Very nice...
By jonmcc33 on 9/29/2009 7:07:18 PM , Rating: 2
Ah yes...

Under "Fees", vendors (AV software companies) must pay fees quarterly. Being a profit based company is shady in my book.

Looks like they have updated their document. They have removed a part of the FAQ that asked about details of the malware they tested for. In the past they have said they would not release the names of any of the viruses/malware in their samples. AFAIK it seems as if they still do not.

Good to know that they supposedly test actual samples now as opposed to just testing it against some sort of database. Still unsure of the exact files they test as it is never indicated other than "a few million".

I have never found AV-Comparatives to be a reliable resource and still stand upon that opinion.

RE: Very nice...
By ChristopherO on 9/29/2009 11:32:27 PM , Rating: 2
Under "Fees", vendors (AV software companies) must pay fees quarterly. Being a profit based company is shady in my book.

The entirety of page 14 is about their policy, which seems to be fairly adequate given that they are a substantial organization with significant costs. Given their stated ethics I'm sure they would prefer to charge for a published report and leave vendors out of it, but unlike a certain popular consumer magazine, they probably couldn't get enough people interested to cover their testing. Their FAQ also recommends numerous other testing centers, so they have no particular ego.

It looks like the Virus Bulletin guys are also well regarded. Doing some research they seem okay. Never felt the need to use them however.

You know, I'm struggling to remember the name of an AV product in the 90s that was hailed as revolutionary, but was ultimately one of the first AV scam products. It had a "drive armor" feature that would literally create a file that would fill every open block of disk space (novel, but obviously pretty crazy). It was from a guy in Israel and was absolutely hammered on USENET (alt.comp.anti-virus) sadly I can't find an archive that dates back far enough so I can find the name. One of the big early researchers, Vesselin Bontchev would write about it, and it was quite funny to read the posts. I'd hate to see him get worked-up at all the "scareware" going around now.

Gosh I feel old.

RE: Very nice...
By ChristopherO on 9/29/2009 11:40:25 PM , Rating: 2
InVircible. The name just came to me. The software is still around today, but sheesh, the storm it caused on USENET was amusing. The publisher claims it uses "generic technology" that doesn't require updates. That along with the disk armor thing is probably why people went nuts.

RE: Very nice...
By ET on 9/29/2009 4:11:34 PM , Rating: 2
Well said, except that the word "virii" doesn't exist. It's viruses.

RE: Very nice...
By pugster on 9/29/2009 4:42:53 PM , Rating: 2
Remember 10+ years ago that buying a software like an internet browser was free before Microsoft came along? I would not be surprised that software makers like Symantec will no longer be in business making antivirus software as Microsoft makes antivirus software free like Internet browsers.

RE: Very nice...
By ElderTech on 9/29/2009 5:33:06 PM , Rating: 2
Fox5 says:
"Much lighter on resource usage,"

Interestingly, the download for XP is 8.6mb prox while that for Vista/Win7 is 4.3 prox. Code must be written to intergrate more easily with the latter. Glad to hear of your good results.

RE: Very nice...
By ChristopherO on 9/29/2009 6:26:48 PM , Rating: 3
Win Defender is included with Vista/7. MSE uses that scanning engine for malware, so you don't need to download it a second time. XP doesn't include Defender by default.

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