[tabi] Microsoft warns not to use its free anti-malware program

  • From: "Chip and Allie Orange" <acorange@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 10 Oct 2013 13:08:10 -0400

Hi all,


Below is an article from the "How to Geek" web site
soft-now-recommends-you-use-a-third-party-antivirus/ ), which I was alerted
to by the recent Top Tech Tidbits newsletter.  I am placing this on TABI
because the Microsoft anti-malware program was a favorite of the visually
impaired computer user, due to its simple, accessible, easy-to-use interface
(and of course because it is free).


Goodbye Microsoft Security Essentials: Microsoft Now Recommends You Use a
Third-Party Antivirus


Microsoft Security Essentials (Windows Defender on Windows 8) was once on
top. Over

the years, it's slid in the test results, but Microsoft argued the tests

meaningful. Now, Microsoft is advising Windows users to use a third-party


This revelation comes to us from an interview Microsoft gave. Microsoft's

website still bills MSE as offering "comprehensive malware protection"
without any

hint that they no longer recommend using it. Microsoft is not communicating

with its users.

A Strong Start

Microsoft Security Essentials was once on top of the rankings. In 2009,

gave it a very high score

and said it was the best-performing free antivirus.

MSE was very appealing to Windows geeks like us, who quickly latched onto
it. It

received very good malware detection scores, was extremely speedy, and was

Not only was it available for free - it wouldn't hassle you and try to
upsell you

to paid antivirus solutions, like AVG and avast! do. MSE was a breath of
fresh air

- both in its interface and its speedy performance. Its test results showed
it was

ahead of the pack, so it was best antivirus at the time.

We've been recommending MSE as the free antivirus to use for years because
of this.

It's included by default on Windows 8 and named "Windows Defender." This is
one of


big security improvements in Windows 8

- you have an antivirus included so every Windows user has protection. It

be nice if Windows users finally didn't have to seek out a third-party

Sliding Scores and Excuses

Over the past several years, Microsoft Security Essentials has slid in the

detection scoring tests. AV-TEST's 2011 annual review ranked Microsoft
Security Essentials

last place in protection among all the products it tested. In October 2012,

Security Essentials scored so low that it lost its AV-TEST certification. In

2013, MSE received a zero protection score from AV-TEST - the lowest
possible score.

It's also come last in other recent tests, including one by Dennis
Technology Labs.

The below chart shows MSE at the bottom of

AV-TEST's charts for July and August 2013

. When it comes to malware protection, it tested below every other antivirus



At the time, Microsoft

argued that the tests were not representative of the real world

. They said they were focused on trying to stop real-world threats, not
compete in

tests where the detection of rare malware was a significant factor. They
argued that

avoiding false positives was an important goal and that real-world
experiences were

more important than arbitrary test results.

Geeks like us here at How-To Geek believed them, taking them at their word.
We certainly

had used Microsoft Security Essentials on our personal computers for years.
We hadn't

encountered any malware, even after

performing scans with other antivirus programs to get a second opinion

. We liked Microsoft Security Essentials for being so lightweight,
unintrusive, and

not trying to upsell us to

paid security suites full of system utilities we don't need

. We liked the idea that Windows 8 users wouldn't need any additional
antivirus protection,

eliminating another complicated system tool from Windows users' lives.

Microsoft Has Stopped Trying

The Microsoft Security Essentials website promises "comprehensive malware

and "award-winning protection," so users would be forgiven for believing
that Microsoft

was committed to making MSE a capable antivirus solution. But Microsoft is
now saying

that MSE is only basic protection that users shouldn't rely on.


an interview with Dennis Protection Labs

, Holly Stewart, the senior program manager of the Microsoft Malware
Protection Center,

said that Microsoft Security Essentials was just a "baseline" that's
designed to

"always be on the bottom" of antivirus tests. She said Microsoft sees MSE as
a first

layer of protection and advises Windows users to use a third-party antivirus

According to Holly Stewart, Microsoft "had an epiphany a few years ago, back
in 2011,

where we realised we had a greater calling and that was to protect all

customers." She says that Microsoft passes its information on to other

makers and helps them make their products better. "We used to have part of
our time

directed towards predicting test results," but these people have now been

to focus on emerging threats and share that information with other antivirus

She went on: "We're providing all of that data and information to our
partners so

they can do at least as well as we are. The natural progression is that we
will always

be on the bottom of these tests. And honestly, if we are doing our job

that's what will happen."

Nevertheless, she argues that "baseline does not equal bad" and says they

a high-quality antivirus. But Microsoft themselves are recommending users
not use

MSE, so it's hard to take that seriously. This isn't a product average
people should

use - it's better than no antivirus, but not something we should recommend.

is doing a disservice to its users by telling antivirus testing companies
that they

don't recommend MSE for average users and telling average users that MSE

them with "comprehensive malware protection" on their website. Microsoft
needs to

pick one message and stick to it.


If You're a Geek, You Can Get By With MSE

Now, 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

with this lightweight option. But average Windows users don't always follow

security practices and should use a strong antivirus that does well in tests
- as

Microsoft themselves now recommend.

If you're a geek, you probably shouldn't recommend MSE to your friends or

it on your parents' computer. Yes, it's a shame - MSE's lightweight and

nature make for a great interface and a faster computer. But the core of an

is the detection engine, and Microsoft appears to be throwing in the towel


So What Should You Use?



4 Places To Find Up-To-Date Antivirus Test Results Online

Do you know how effective your antivirus programs is? A variety of

regularly compare antivirus programs, throwing a large...

[Read Article]

To find an antivirus product that actually offers good protection,

consult an antivirus test website

and see how your antivirus of choice stacks up. Luckily, one thing hasn't

in the latest test results: We still don't recommend purchasing a paid

because there are solid free options.

avast! Free Antivirus

has done well in tests, offering comprehensive and free antivirus
protection. Unfortunately,

it's heavier than MSE, its interface is more overbearing, and it tries to

you to a paid product you don't really need. But that's the price we pay for

antivirus protection. For average users - not geeks who can get by with the

protection - we'd recommend avast! Free Antivirus.


We'd like to apologize for continuing to recommend Microsoft Security

for so long, in spite of test results. We found it worked for us and we
didn't like

how heavy and obnoxious other antivirus solutions can be. We believed
Microsoft when

they argued that MSE provided "comprehensive malware protection" for
real-world threats

and that antivirus tests weren't representative of real-world results, as
MSE performed

well for us. We feel betrayed by Microsoft - they made an internal decision
to let

MSE decline without telling us. They're still communicating two different

- one to antivirus testing companies in interviews and one to average users
on their




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Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as
at home

using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry.

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Published 10/4/13


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  • » [tabi] Microsoft warns not to use its free anti-malware program - Chip and Allie Orange