Microsoft Security Essentials

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The protection of your computer and all of the data it contains is not a matter that should be taken lightly. Unfortunately the creators of malware, spyware, rootkits and all the other forms of aggressive software take a great deal of interest in producing ever more invasive and destructive programs.

There is a school of thought that believes that free antivirus software cannot be as good as a product that must be paid for and it always comes as a pleasant surprise to find a security package that can act as an exception to the rule. In this case the exception is the Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) package. This package is a real time detection system that has been designed to keep the user informed as malware threats are detected.

MSE was developed by Microsoft to run on systems from Windows XP with service pack three installed through to Windows 7. This antivirus software has been designed to detect and disable threats then prompts the user to deal with them. If it does not receive a response from the use within a ten minute period it then acts on the default actions as defined in the application’s settings. The antivirus software was designed to fight malware and this in turn covers threats such as: viruses, rootkits, Trojan horses, and spyware. It is a more complete package than the ill equipped Microsoft Defender and updates itself three times a day from Microsoft Update allowing it to remain up to date with virus definitions. If the user believes that they may have somehow missed an update it is possible to download the updates manually from the Microsoft Security Portal website.
Like other Microsoft security products it is based on the same foundation as they all use the same definitions and anti-malware engine that is known as MSMPENG or Microsoft Malware Protection Engine. As the system works in real time MSE reports suspicious behaviours of monitored programs to what used to be known as Microsoft SpyNet but is now called the Microsoft Active Protection Service (MAPS), which is a web based service. If the report sent is matched to a newly discovered threat with a previously unreleased virus definition, the new definition is automatically downloaded to remove the threat. The main advantages of a real time system are in the details. As any file is created or downloaded MSE scans and assesses for any potential threat and will notify the user should any malware be detected.
Once again it is then left to the user to decide what action to take before the time limit is reached and the system takes steps to deal with the data it has found. One of the features within the applications settings is whether the system will go on to create System Restore checkpoints before removing the offending malware. MSE also works with Internet Explorer to protect users from web based threats. This system known as NIS, or Network Inspection System, is in effect a network intrusion detection system that uses a separate set of virus definitions that are also updated automatically.

The success of the original MSE package can be measured by the lengths taken by malware designers as there have been three variations launched that use the MSE name. The first bore no resemblance to the Microsoft package at all. The second was little better but the third was a particularly dangerous rogue that uses sophisticated social engineering to deceive the use and infect the system. The designations for these rogue packages are :
• TrojanDownloader : Win32/Fakeinit
• Rogue : Win32/FakePAV or Unknown Win32/Trojan
The second piece of malware is capable of terminating and preventing the launch of over one hundred and fifty different programs that include Registry Editor, Command Prompt, Safari, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer and Opera.

Because of the huge variety of antivirus software that is available on the market today it is difficult to say whether any package is better, or indeed worse, than any other. This is due to the never ending series of revisions and upgrades that are taking place to prevent malicious damage being done to users computers. Perhaps a better approach would be to look at how the original version of MSE was received and how the markets have adjusted since that time. According to Microsoft after a year from its initial release there were more than thirty million users of MSE.
By June 2011 The Security Industry Market Share Analysis report describes MSE as “. . . one of the most popular AV products in the world with 10.66 percent of the global market . . .” Microsoft Security Essentials has been described as an influence on PC users to adopt free antivirus software. The fact that MSE worked so well that it swung public opinion towards adopting freeware security systems could be considered as proof positive of how good the package actually is.

Yes there are a wide variety of other AV systems available to the user. Whether the user believes that a better system can only be acquired by paying for it is open to debate. Some of MSE’s competitors dismissed it out of hand when it was first released and it does make one wonder if they soon found themselves eating their words as the popularity of this AV package gathered momentum. Since its launch in 2009 MSE has grown in popularity and its power to detect and disable malware has grown significantly as well.
The package still works well today and can be relied upon to detect computer viruses, worms, Trojan horses, spyware and adware. Not bad at all for a system that was all but dismissed by some of Microsofts competitors when it was first announced.


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