Microsoft Security Essentials

Since we have released Microsoft Security Essentials (a free antivirus solution) for consumption by the general public, I have gotten a number of questions about it from my enterprise customers, including what it means for AV in the enterprise. Here goes :)

Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) is a new PC security solution that went to beta in June. It provides comprehensive protection from malware including viruses, spyware, rootkits, and Trojans. And it's free. The solution is built on Microsoft's industry-certified malware protection engine and uses the same core antimalware technology that Microsoft Forefront, the Malicious Software Removal Tool, Windows Defender, and Windows Live OneCare use. MSE uses a scanning and removal process using a database that includes definitions, called signatures, of known malware. Threats are collected from hundreds of millions of PCs around the world each month, and the updated information is deployed daily.

Some consumers don't want to or are unable to pay for security, some sign up for a trial and don't realize it has expired, and others are intimidated by or don't want to bother with maintaining their security updates, so security coverage lapses, leaving PCs at risk. With malware attacks on the rise, both in number and in severity, these unprotected PC users are more at risk than ever. Last November, Microsoft made the decision to stop selling Windows Live OneCare, a paid consumer security service. Windows Live OneCare was one of the first all-in-one security programs from Microsoft for consumers. However, because it was a paid service, it didn't remove the payment barriers or the confusion with annual renewals that many users faced, so it wasn't reaching computer users who were not using any kind of security system. Industry standard for PC security is to sell consumers subscriptions to security suites, but doing so wasn't necessarily making the PC ecosystem safer and healthier. A free product would promote a healthier ecosystem and at the same time add genuine value to the Windows platform.

Having a free security client would mean more people would download and use security programs, which would in turn cut down on the number of computers that are infected with malware, including those that host and pass along viruses. This is true especially in developing countries where malware is rampant. MSE is not only free, but it is also small and able to run on computers that have limited bandwidth. We wanted MSE to be high quality, easy to get, easy to use, and easy to maintain. Because there is no billing or personal information required for registration, renewals, or trials, you download it, it updates itself automatically, and you don't have to worry about it anymore.

All of that said, MSE is a consumer-focused, Microsoft-managed service (much like Windows Update), and does not have the enterprise management and reporting capabilities required by large organizations. Our intent with MSE is to make the overall PC ecosystem more secure by providing a service for consumers who would not otherwise have a PC Security system. We do not intend for MSE to compete in the enterprise space, as it does not have the enterprise management and reporting capabilities. Forefront Client Security is our solution in the enterprise space that provides those capabilities.