By Fred Langa
Frustration with most commercial antivirus suites launched a long-term, real-life test of Microsoft Security Essentials, Microsoft’s free anti-malware application.
In one of the rare extended tests outside a lab, Microsoft’s software has quietly kept two Windows 7 PCs free of infections, even in dangerous public environments.
I’ve tried many commercial security suites over the years and eventually grown unhappy with each of them. An anti-malware publisher would layer new features on top of old, and each new version would require more disk space and system resources — eventually making the software too big, too slow, or too hard to customize. Moving on to another publisher’s suite only restarted the same pattern.
So four months ago, I decided to look into a new option: the recently released Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) — the company’s first antivirus and anti-malware application. (MSE is available as a free download from the product’s info page.)
So far, my real-life test drive indicates that Microsoft may have finally got basic security right.
Three critical elements for basic security
I generally rely on three interlocking kinds of security protection: First, a firewall to protect against direct hack attacks. Next, various built-in filters and prescreens provided by online apps (browsers and e-mail, for example) to block malware downloads and prevent open doors to bad sites. Finally, an active anti-malware tool that monitors all file activity. The software screens out known or likely worms, viruses, Trojans, and other malicious code — either by identifying them directly or by watching their behavior.
For the first time, in Fall 2009 Microsoft provided all three pieces of the online security puzzle — and offered them free.