Can You Rely on Microsoft Security Essentials to Protect Your Computer?

Microsoft recently announced that its free Security Essentials product and Windows Defender provides only a baseline for the AV industry but not the comprehensive protection of paid AV solutions.

Microsoft Security Essentials: Nothing Has Changed

While Microsoft’s announcement caused a ripple of dissatisfaction among customers who assumed that their product was on a par with security suites offered by ISVs, such as Kaspersky and McAfee, Security Essentials has been languishing in the lower ranks of independent AV test results for the last couple of years.

Essentials and Defender receive definition updates, usually no more than once a day, compared to the many daily updates that come with the more established products. This has always been the case, and indicates that you are going to be left without the best possible protection for much of the day.

does microsoft security essentials work: windows defender

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Microsoft AV protects against the most serious and prevalent threats, while paid solutions are updated more quickly to protect users against emerging threats, can additionally block spam email, have more sophisticated firewalls, and often include an Intrusion Detection System (IDS). As such, Security Essentials has never been able to provide the same protection of a full AV suite.

Do I Need More Comprehensive Protection?

That depends, but in the majority of cases it is a good idea. Running a modern edition of Windows on new hardware can go a long way to reduce the likelihood of infection, along with making sure that the operating system and third-party apps are kept up-to-date. Additional measures, such as removing administrative privileges from users, application whitelisting, and UEFI Secure Boot, can go a long way to help better protect PCs.

Despite my general disdain for some of the more popular AV suites – no names mentioned – antivirus is still an important layer of defence, especially if you are putting corporate data into the hands of employees.

Microsoft Security Essentials may prove to be enough if best practices are followed and sensible precautions taken when using systems that are appropriately protected by least privilege and other protection technologies, but I’d reserve that for my own personal computers and for anyone who is tech-savvy enough to avoid online dangers.

Sometimes, the best of us can be caught out. In the end it comes down to what kind of data you are trying to safeguard and how large you consider the risk of compromise.

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Comments (5)

5 responses to “Can You Rely on Microsoft Security Essentials to Protect Your Computer?”

  1. The program can’t be that bad as I know of an organisation that has 300,000+ machines dumping Symantec (not a bad thing in itself) and migrating to SCEP. Maybe it’s a financial thing due to the MS deal we have but I have noticed that MSE will pick up viruses that other programs miss. Mind you, you can say that about all the A/V programs. I do find the I can run MSE with other A/V programs and not get the usual clashes that occur when you have two A/V programs running together. However, (when I was using AVG), AVG had to be installed first or it packed a sad when detecting MSE that was already installed. now that I have dumped AVG and it’s ridiculous Windows 8 type clunky interface, AVAST also plays nice with MSE. I am not a Security Specialist but it seems to me it is better to run two such programs. Just like wearing 2 condoms; it is better to be sure to be sure and double your protection.

  2. Security Essentials is easily compromised by Malware and ends up being disabled and no longer active. Mcafee is the laziest product on earth. You have to get it’s ass up and make it look for malware, basically tell it what malware is, Dangle malware infront of it and it doesn’t have a clue. As an IT technician since 1995 these are just my experiences.

  3. I am using Eset and it has been good 5 years without any outbreak in my office. Previous experience with Trend Micro and Symantec aren’t so sweet~

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IT consultant, Contributing Editor @PetriFeed, and trainer @Pluralsight. All about Microsoft, Office 365, Azure, and Windows Server.
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