Pros Cool, Bloggers Warm Toward Microsoft’s Security Freeware

A beta version of Microsoft’s free computer security software is now out. Microsoft Security Essentials, or SE, aka “Morro,” replaces Redmond’s OneCare subscription service.

Features in SE are designed to preempt such typical malware activities as stealing passwords or turning a PC into a zombie bot.

The application is expected to be generally available in the Fall.

Meanwhile, not surprisingly, commercial providers of similar applications are getting out the long knives, pointing to the lack of more sophisticated protection in SE.

Professionals Look Askance

“It is yet another antivirus/antispyware/rootkit finder software solution which still needs to download definitions to stay current,” Christopher Ciabarra, president of Network Intercept, told TechNewsWorld.

It lacks any means for monitoring third-party devices or mobile devices, pointed out Rob Fitzgerald, president of the Lorenzi Group.

“These should be encrypted and protected as well, because they also provide a way into the network,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Still, SE’s basic functionality earned a nod from Fitzgerald: “For what it offers, it does a good job.”

Kudos From the Blogosphere

Despite the reservations among some security professionals, SE is meeting with acclaim — or, at least, satisfaction — in the blogosphere. For anyone who has ever trolled for posts about Microsoft, this may come as something of a shock.

“I know that it’s hard for some people to accept it, but Microsoft is capable of getting things right,” wrote Adrian Kingsley-Hughes. “While some security vendors have been quick to dismiss this new tool, the independent testing company AV-Test ranked the beta product as one of the best security products tested.”

In addition, “Microsoft Security Essentials didn’t throw up false positives, and also worked well at removing rootkits,” observes Kingsley-Hughes.

SE got a thumbs-up from Lee Mathews of Download Squad, who says he’s “very happy” with its level of protection and low impact on system performance. “We’ve got a big gallery of screenshots of SE in action, including it detecting the trojan that I *ahem* intentionally left on my machine so I could test the program fully.”

Performance is a common complaint about commercial antivirus apps, notes jnichols on Stuff About Life. “A few of the commercial applications have bad reputations for slowing even the newest Intel machines to a crawl. The computer feels no different after installing Security Essentials than it did before the installation. As I mentioned in a previous post, the machine I’m running Windows 7 on is no speed demon.”

Mixed Impressions

Final judgment will have to wait until SE is ready for general release, says blogger Emil Protalinski on Ars Technica.

Based on the first wave of screenshots released, “it looked like an old build to us — and almost identical to Windows Defender,” he wrote.

Still, “the UI is pretty straightforward and doesn’t seem overly complicated like some antivirus applications,” Protalinski continues. “The installer is small and the application definitely doesn’t use much in the way resources.”

The real test will be detection rates, he says, “since MSE isn’t final, we won’t know for a while how it will fare.”

SE received an overall positive reaction from FutureLawyer Richard M. “Rick” Georges, though the release also provided him with the opportunity to take a few good-natured swipes at both Microsoft and Mac users.

“It has replaced several freeware security programs in my house and office,” says Georges, “and looks fast and efficient … . Microsoft is finally making the OS secure; which, of course, should have been what it was when you bought it. I guess I AM a PC, after all. I don’t eat quiche, I don’t do yoga, I’m not cool, I’m not rich, I’m not thin, etc. But, all you cool Apple people; don’t get too smug. There are some viruses and spam and spyware out there for you too.”

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