Microsoft downgrades their own Security Essentials

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Mixed signals about the core anti-virus protection in Windows.

These days, most IT professionals will recommend Microsoft Security Essentials. MSE is the free anti-virus program that’s included with Windows 7 and Windows 8. It’s also available as a free download for Windows Vista and XP users.

Security Essentials is all that most people need. It runs unobtrusively in the background, is updated automatically by Windows Update and catches nasties before they can hurt your computer …. and the price is right. Paying for an additional anti-virus program isn’t necessary for most people.

So it was disappointing to hear one of Microsoft’s own staff dissing Security Essentials and suggesting customers buy other AV software as well.

We had an epiphany a few years ago, back in 2011, where we realised we had a greater calling and that was to protect all Microsoft customers,” says Holly Stewart, senior program manager of the Microsoft Malware Protection Center in an interview with Dennis Technology Labs.

For starters, if Microsoft is going to have an epiphany on such an important matter as software security, it would be nice if they told customers at the time and not wait two years for their revelation to leak out.

It seems MSE is now considered a ‘baseline strategy’ to which customers are expected to add extra anti-virus protection. “It’s not as efficient to have one kind of weapon,” said Ms Stewart “Like anything you must have that diversity. It’s a weakness to just have one.

It is true that having multiple anti-virus scanners might give better protection, but it’s also true that AV software can conflict with each other and slow down a computer.

Microsoft itself responded with an official statement …

We are committed to protecting our customers, and our Microsoft antimalware solutions provide strong, comprehensive defence against malicious code and attacks. We believe in these products and are proud of the protection capabilities we provide to well over 150 million computers worldwide.”

That’s a typical ‘motherhood statement’ from the company which doesn’t recant the statements of their product manager. It doesn’t confirm them either.

It’s possible that these statements deprecating MSE have something to do with placating the anti-virus software makers. Those companies have seen a big drop in sales since most people now rely on MSE.

What to do?

We’ll keep using MSE to check incoming files (including Office documents and Outlook attachments) for nasties. Microsoft’s AV software might be ‘baseline’ but that base is enough for most people.

However it’s worth keeping an eye on Microsoft’s AV epiphany (sorry, policy). Redmond might have another change of heart and wait a twelve-month or more before telling their customers.

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