Microsoft today officially announced Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE), its free, real-time consumer antimalware solution for fighting viruses, spyware, rootkits, and trojans. Currently being tested by Microsoft employees and a select few testers, MSE is Microsoft's latest offering intended to help users fight the threats that plague Windows PCs.
Microsoft notes that the threat ecosystem has expanded to include rogue security software, auto-run malware, fake or pirated software and content, as well as banking malware, and the company is aiming to help the users who are not well protected. A beta of MSE will be available in English and Brazilian Portuguese for public download at microsoft.com/security_essentials on June 23, 2009 for the first 75,000 users. This is a target number, but Microsoft is willing to increase it if necessary.
After the first beta, Microsoft will release a second public build, either a Beta Refresh or a Release Candidate, for the summer. Finally, Microsoft is aiming to release the final product in the fall, though it may adjust that based on feedback. MSE will be available as standalone 32-bit and 64-bit downloads for Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7. Microsoft has always recommended that its users use real-time antimalware protection, but the release by the end of this year will mark the company's first free solution.
MSE was previously referred to as codename Morro when Microsoft first revealed it in November 2008. The announcement came as the company surprised everyone by saying it would be phasing out the pay-for Windows Live OneCare in favor of a free security solution. Sales of the Windows Live OneCare subscription service as well as Windows Live OneCare for Server on SBS 2008 are scheduled to end at the end of the month.
While OneCare offered a Managed Firewall, PC Performance Tuning, Data Backup and Restore, Multi-PC Management, and Printer Sharing, MSE is really closer to Forefront Client Security, Microsoft's antivirus product for the enterprise.
Features and performance
Microsoft touts five features of Microsoft Security Essentials:
- Remove most-prevalent malware
- Remove known viruses
- Real-time anti-virus protection
- Remove known spyware
- Real-time anti-spyware protection
You'll likely notice that the last two features can be attributed to Windows Defender, which is offered as a standalone download for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, ships with Windows Vista, and will ship with Windows 7. During the MSE installation, Windows Defender is actually disabled as it is no longer needed with MSE installed. Nevertheless, the UI was based on Windows Defender's, and Microsoft emphasized that keeping the UI as simple as possible was very important. Below you can see two screenshots, with the first showing MSE when everything is nice and dandy while the second shows that a threat has been detected. While users can choose to clean the threat from the main MSE window, the more likely scenario is an alert popping up and a user choosing to clean the threat straight from the alert with a single click.