Thursday, December 23, 2010

Microsoft Security Essentials - great stuff, but death to another industry?

Well, we all know this story. Microsoft enters the market with a free add-on to Windows and wipes out a whole industry. Does the new, free Windows Security Essentials seal the fate of third-party security products? It is a good question.

First, Microsoft's product does the job great as far as I can tell, and you know they 'did it right' when it comes to system integration and performance. It does lack a lot of advanced and extra features, but none that I need. Those may come later, or perhaps they are leaving room for third-party applications in cases where users desire a little more control. The features they do offer are good ones though, such as only turning off real-time scanning for non-downloads (non-weblinks).

Advance 5 years. Microsoft's new Security Essentials is nearly built-in, but not (due to anti-trust laws). It is free. It is fast. It gets good reviews (the corps with money usually do). What hope do the security companies have?

As a user and a person who has to occasionally deal with a mucked up PC or a family member, I like Microsoft Security Essentials a lot. If I were a security vendor, I'd hate the idea of it so much I'd probably throw up. Combined with Windows Defender (built into Windows), there isn't much left to add.

I've seen other common confusion around Security Essentials. Some say, 'but product X detected more things'. Chances are 99.9% that product X detected benign things and called them threats. This happens all the time because the market encourages security products to do this. If I give you a brand new anti-virus scanner and it detects notepad.exe as a virus, does that mean you really had a virus? No. However, to the uninformed user it might seem that way. Please remember, security products are not infallible. Many users rely on them for their first line of defense. NEVER do that. They make mistakes, identifying good stuff as bad, and not identify bad stuff quite often. The FIRST line of defense MUST be your own decisions. THINK before you act. Also, install the Web of Trust browser extension (Chrome, Firefox, IE) to keep you out of a lot of trouble.

I must say to Microsoft: Good work! Keep it up. You guys have seemingly turned the whole corporation around the last 4 years or so and I'm proud of you.

I must say to End Users: If you choose to switch to the free Microsoft Security Essentials, then you need to be sure to uninstall your old security software first. Having more than one on your system doesn't make you double protected, it makes you double slow and can be the cause of many problems.

I must say to security developers/vendors: I feel for you. I hope you can find a way to survive or morph into something. This is going to take the industry by storm. Be ready. I've seen that AVG has already begun getting ready by porting their product to other platforms, such as Android. Smart move. You all should do that.

Feel free to post your comments on this controversial subject.

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