Kudos to reader Jeremy Gilbert for writing in to let us know that Microsoft recently released version 2.0 of its free Security Essentials antivirus program. It was actually made available last week, but slipped beneath our radar since Microsoft dropped it on the down-low.
We included MSE in last year's security software roundup, awarding the program an 8 verdict for its lean footprint and capable scan engine. According to How To Geek, version 2.0 includes a revamped heuristic scan engine, network traffic inspection to protect against network-based exploits, and tighter integration with Internet Explorer.
How well do the upgrades work? We haven't played around with MSE 2.0 yet, but you can bet we'll address the new features when we do.
Starting November 1st, Microsoft began making its free Security Essentials antivirus software available to Windows users through its Microsoft Update service, a move which has sparked outrage among at least two AV vendors.
"This will end up in action taken, especially in Europe," Panda Chief Executive Juan Santana told CNet in an interview. Santana went on to say that Panda "will monitor the situation," and Panda isn't the only one. Trend Micro isn't happy about the move either.
"Commercializing Windows Update to distribute other software applications raises significant questions about unfair competition," Carol Carpenter, general manager of the consumer and small business group at Trend Micro, told Computerworld last week. "Windows Update is a de facto extension of Windows, so to begin delivering software tied to updates has us concerned. "Windows Update is not a choice for users, and we believe it should not be used this way."
In a blog post on Monday titled "Microsoft just doesn't get it... Security is about diversity," Panda took things a step further in its criticism of both Security Essentials and how it's being distributed.
"Microsoft recently started installing its Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) free antivirus product via the Operating System update mechanism to computers which don’t already have an antivirus installed. Basically Microsoft is saying they are worried about the security of its users and they need to make sure they are protected... We agree with Microsoft; it’s better to have some protection than not having any at all. However the way the guys in Redmond are executing the idea is risky from a security perspective and could very well make the malware situation much worse for Internet users. That’s why we encourage Microsoft to continue using Windows/Microsoft Update but instead to push all free antivirus products available on the market, not just MSE."
You can read the entire blog post here, then hit the jump and tell us whether you agree with Panda and Trend Micro, or if competing AV vendors should 'leave Microsoft alone!'"
Antivirus vendors went on the offensive when Microsoft announced it was dropping its Windows Live OneCare in favor of offering a free security suite, Microsoft Security Essentials. One year later and with 31 million installations now under its belt, Microsoft is free to serve up a slice of humble pie to the competition.
"It's been a busy year for Microsoft Security Essentials. As we observed right after the first week of release, Microsoft Security Essentials had already detected threats on over half a million computers," the Redmond outfit said in a TechNet blog post. "As Microsoft Security Essentials enters into its second year with over 31 million installations, 27 million of those computers have reported infections to the Microsoft Malware Protection Center (MMPC)."
In other words, MSE isn't just popular, it's also working (you can read our review of Microsoft Security Essentials right here). It's also a global hit.
"The country with the most installations is the United States, but the next 10 countries with the most installs show that Microsoft Security Essentials has a global install base," Microsoft points out. "It is available in 27 languages – so language shouldn’t be a barrier to good security. Money is no problem, either – Microsoft Security Essentials is available at no cost!"
Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) has been around for nearly an year. All along, the company has maintained that it has no plans of extending the free antivirus software to small businesses, as it is solely intended for consumers and home-based businesses.
However, the company is no longer averse to offering MSE to small businesses, even at the expense of its enterprise security solutions. In an abrupt policy change, MS has announced that it will begin offering “its Microsoft Security Essentials available to small businesses on up to 10 PCs for FREE, beginning in early October!”
“By providing Microsoft Security Essentials to small businesses free of charge, Microsoft extends its commitment to help these companies save money and grow their business by offering no-cost protection from viruses, spyware and other malicious threats,” the company said in a blog post.
Ah, Microsoft. It's taken the software giant years to wise up and realize they ought to provide a free antivirus solution to their users. The launch last year of Microsoft Security Essentials gave us hope that Microsoft was getting serious about security. While they haven't really pushed the program, it's is at least available. Now a new beta for the Security Essentials suite is available for you to download and try out.
The improvements range from humdrum tweaks like firewall integration during setup, to more necessary updates like a faster, more efficient protection engine. The new beta will also integrate with Internet Explorer to detect web threats. Yes, you probably don't use IE, but most people still do. Security Essentials will moreover be able to detect and block local network-based attacks.
We've always found Microsoft Security Essentials to be an excellent free antivirus program that bests many of the more bloated paid apps. We just wish Microsoft would integrate it with Windows. People should have a real AV application when they start up a new PC. No more of this trialware junk. Go straight here to join the beta.
I have four hard drives I use for storage. One of my drives is a 1TB WD Caviar Green. A folder named “35c7b77f9e7bab635e2efb4b74b9” keeps appearing, with a file “MPMiniSigStub.exe” and a bunch of files with names like “1.81.790.0_to_1.81.799.0_mpasdlta.vdm._p.” When I delete the folder a new one with a similar randomly generated name appears in its place, with similar files in it. I scanned with Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware, Norton 360 4.0, and Microsoft Security Essentials; none of them detected anything bad. I have also “hidden” the folder, but it reverts back to non-hidden status.
Read the Doctor's advice for Kevin after the jump.
When Microsoft first announced plans to launch a free antivirus software, Symantec and McAfee met the news with disdainful skepticism, arguing that a free antivirus could never compete with their own products. But Microsoft Security Essentials is now the fourth most deployed antivirus software, according to Opswat's latest antivirus market share report. Opswat has a front-row seat to all the action as its flagship product, the Oesis Framework, is a widely used development kit for managing third-party security applications.
Free antivirus tools are more popular than what the likes of Symantec and McAfee will have you believe. In fact, the four most used antivirus tools are all absolutely free. And free offerings command a very healthy 42% market share.
“Although the true market share of security applications often remains hidden, software vendors will claim to dominate a market based on their sales numbers vs. the reported sales numbers of their competitors,” Opswat said in the report.
After a brief moment of availability this week, Microsoft’s free Security Essentials application has been pulled from the virtual shelves.
Microsoft claims that it now has enough users for the beta, stating on their website, “Thank you for your interest in joining the Microsoft Security Essentials Beta. We are not accepting additional participants at this time. Please check back at later a date for possible additional availability.”
So, if you were hoping to get in but weren’t among the fleets of people that did so yesterday, you’re out of luck! You’ll just have to wait for the full version, like everyone else (that is, unless you got actually in).