A recent anti-malware test report raises reader concerns about the reliability of Microsoft Security Essentials.
Plus: A printer prints only in the Wingdings font, one-time-use credit cards for online security, and what happens to your passwords if you let a password-manager subscription lapse.
Concern — and controversy — over MSE AV scores
Microsoft Security Essentials’ relatively low scores in recent anti-malware tests prompted several Windows Secrets readers to question whether it’s advisable to use Microsoft’s free AV tool (and, by extension, Win8’s nearly identical Windows Defender). For example, this from Jim Clawson:
- “I know Fred Langa is a fan of MS Security Essentials. Given the How-To Geek article, “Goodbye Microsoft Security Essentials,” has he any comments or concerns about MSE?”
The How-To Geek article is based on anti-malware tests published by the respected security company AV-TEST. Its most recent report gives MSE the lowest overall ranking among 26 home AV products, both free and paid.
I’m not all that surprised by the results — they fall in line with what I’ve written earlier about MSE. For example, see the following LangaList Plus stories:
- MSE delivers mixed results in antivirus tests (May 19, 2011, article)
- New tests pan Microsoft Security Essentials (Nov. 8, 2012, item)
- MS Security Essentials: Poor showing in new test (Dec. 20, 2012, article)
As it turns out, How-To Geek and I come to nearly the same conclusion. How-To Geek states:
“If you’re a geek like we are, MSE and Windows Defender are very usable. If you have good security practices and know what you’re doing, you can manage just fine with this lightweight option. But average Windows users don’t always follow proper security practices and should use a strong antivirus [product] that does well in tests — as Microsoft [itself] now recommends.”
(Whether Microsoft really recommends third-party AV products over MSE is somewhat controversial. According to the How-To Geek article, there seems to be disagreement within Microsoft about the use of MSE vs. third-party apps .)
Here’s what I first stated in a Nov. 8, 2012, LangaList Plus item — and expanded upon in the Dec. 10, 2012, column:
“MSE is probably not the best for novice users and those who rarely think about PC security — users who click any link that interests them and who ignore security warnings. Those users need lots of protection — mostly from themselves!
“For the most part, Windows Secrets readers tend to be experienced and involved PC users. They take security seriously. For that type of user, I still consider MSE an excellent choice.”