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Microsoft Makes an Impact on Security, Really

Doug is traveling today, so filling in for him once again is Online News Editor Kurt Mackie.

Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE), Redmond's free anti-virus software for consumer users, is on the job and has detected nearly 4 million malware threats in a week's time after its full release. The United States leads the malware tally, particularly with trojans, according to Microsoft's findings.

Shouldn't everyone be happy now that Microsoft has gotten involved in the industry it helped spawn (the software security industry)? Companies like McAfee, Symantec, Computer Associates and others have followed close to Microsoft's software like a barnacle to a ship's hull. In fact, their anti-virus and anti-malware solutions now tend to dog Windows. Consumer users are hit with daily security uploads and installs on power-up, and a complete virus scan of a machine can take multiple hours.

Perhaps this security software "bloatware" is one aspect that moved Microsoft to get involved in the business of its partners. Moreover, MSE is free, without the annual subscriptions of third-party security software.

Microsoft has said that MSE is solely aimed at providing basic protection for users who wouldn't buy anti-virus software anyway, such as in the developing world. However, based on Microsoft's own stats, it seems people in the United States aren't buying security software either, or their subscriptions have lapsed. And we're not the developing world...yet.

Software security experts still seem to be assessing MSE's impact. In particular, there's worry that the sharing of security information will break down if proprietary concerns become more important than cooperation. Some unkind words have been exchanged over MSE's release by software security vendors, who say Microsoft just can't cut it.

Will Microsoft Security Essentials spell the end of third-party anti-virus companies? Will Microsoft bury its partners this time, meaning fewer eyes looking out for malware? Is the road to good intentions going to have a bad side effect, or will you be glad to be finally rid of security bloatware under Microsoft's watchful eyes? Tell Doug at [email protected].

Posted by Kurt Mackie on October 21, 2009