Tag: "security essentials"

Anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewall recommendations for Windows 7

I've had a couple of people e-mail me asking what they should install on their new Windows 7 computers since some of the firewalls and anti-virus software they've used in the past aren't compatible.

Long time readers of my blog will know the epic battle I've always had with anti-virus. To the point where during the Windows Vista timeframe I didn't run anti-virus. Obviously I don't recommend the average computer user to do that. But I could never find any anti-virus software that was both free, fast and not annoying.

In Windows XP you could tolerate anti-virus and 3rd party firewalls constantly nagging you and having annoying spinning icons in the system tray. In Windows Vista because the OS experience was so much cleaner than Windows XP anti-virus software like AVG or Avast always seemed drastically out of place and frankly noisy and annoying.

I was thrilled when Microsoft announced they were dropping Windows Live OneCare, a rather heavy security suite and replacing it with what was then codename Morro, now Microsoft Security Essentials. Why? Because it promised and delivered a Windows Defender-like anti-virus solution, namely fast, nag-free and out of the way. I would strongly recommend to everyone Security Essentials. It's a lightweight, fast and nag-free anti-malware application. Meaning it deals with viruses and spyware. In my opinion there is no competition anymore in the free anti-virus space, this is it.

Even if you've just brought a Windows 7 PC and have a trial version of Norton or McAfee I'd even recommend removing them and installing this instead.

As for a firewall. Post Windows XP SP2 this is really a non-issue. I'd recommend using the built in firewall. There's no need to clutter the machine with anything else.

And finally as a first line of defence against phishing and driveby malware if you're running Windows 7, you've already got Internet Explorer 8 there. Great. From a security standpoint there's no safer browser. If you're still on Windows XP or Windows Vista I'd suggest upgrading now. I know most of my readers use Firefox and that's fine for more tech-savy users. But I wouldn't recommend it for your average computer user, the data is clear, For phishing Firefox blocks 80% while IE8 blocks 83% and more malware in general Firefox catches less than 30% (other browsers were even less). Internet Explorer 8 was blocking 81%.

In short: Use Internet Explorer 8. Use the built-in firewall and install Security Essentials.

Microsoft Security Essentials to be released today

Microsoft are going to be releasing Security Essentials later today, for those that don't know this is their free anti-virus, anti-spyware, well anti-malware in general application.

I've been running it for a few months now on all my systems, and the short review is this: it's the best anti-malware software ever, it doesn't slow your system down noticibly and it isn't constantly bugging you with pop-ups like other anti-malware software.

My recommendation is this: If you're using Norton or McAfee, stop giving them money, uninstall their terrible products and replace it with this. Check out my other coverage of it here.

Keep an eye out on the Security Essentials website for the download links.

Update: it's now up.

Microsoft Security Essentials update

Those using the pre-release version of Microsoft Security Essentials may have noticed a new update being pushed down lately.

There's a few couple of changes of note.

WIndows 7 Action Center reporting on Microsoft Security Center

It now reports itself to the Action Center / Security Center as Microsoft Security Essentials, previously it reported itself as Microsoft Antimalware.

It also features a new set of icons, here's the old set:

Microsoft Security CenterMicrosoft Security Center

And the newer ones, which are much clearer.

Microsoft Security CenterMicrosoft Security Center

Microsoft Security Essentials MD5 and SHA-1 hashes

I've been getting a few e-mails from people asking where they can download MSE now that Microsoft have closed off the beta. The short answer is I don't know.

I can tell you the MD5 and SHA-1 hashes, so you can at least make sure you can get a copy that hasn't been tampered with if you're that keen on using it.

There's three installers:

mssefullinstall-amd64fre-en-us-vista.exe (3.72MB) which is the installer for Windows Vista and Windows 7 64-bit, its hashes are as follows:

MD5: D460B3A5116FF1DB2CFA69ACA80DF8C0
SHA-1: B5E7FC24FCD646EFCAE3457DB7D7FC48E648AE23

mssefullinstall-x86fre-en-us-vista.exe (4.72MB) is the installer for Windows Vista and Windows 7 32-bit.

MD5: 4C9AC845F5FD5547FC522035FA251F00
SHA-1: 7986596458E37EF8875A9DDAC0AE9AAC9A41E936

mssefullinstall-x86fre-en-us-xp.exe (7.51MB) is the installer for Windows XP 32-bit.

MD5: 7F9D0DE36B6673974D4D6BD6F5731D89
SHA-1: F273DA4CC2EECFBF0C97B2B0701399A20EC5B7AA

So if you are going to go to any lengths to get hold of it, at least get one which hasn't been modified to include any unwanted surprises.

Symantec stepping up the FUD over Microsoft Security Essentials

As expected Symantec (the makers of Norton, the most popular anti-virus/security suite software) are a tad nervous over Microsoft Security Essentials, and with the number of technology enthusiasts they've scorned over the years they've got every reason to fear a backlash now, so they're upping the FUD campaign from level 1, they're not concerned about MSE, to level 2, stating that its rubbish and won't protect you.

From the BBC:

"Early reviews of the beta are showing that it under-performs when compared to existing freeware products, and well below paid solutions," said security firm Symantec in a statement.

I'm not sure what reviews Symantec are talking about, but I haven't read any data on MSE's performance yet, nor should we expect any for weeks, if not months as that's how long it takes to actual do proper scientific tests.  It does however use the same core engine and definitions as OneCare and Forefront, so the logical thing to do would be to use data evaluating OneCare's performance.

The latest tests by AV-Comparatives, rank OneCare second in detection of new malware, but also importantly it scores the lowest false positives by far, meaning it won't detect genuine files as being malicious.  Which is what led AV Comparatives to award it the highest ranking.  Here's the data for new malware detection rates.  Where's Symantec, oh right down the bottom with a dismal 35%.

Avira AntiVir Premium 69%
Windows Live OneCare 60%
Eset Nod32 56%
BitDefender 50%
AVG Anti-Virus 45%
Avast Professional 42%
Sophos Anti-Virus 37%
Symantec Norton 35%
McAfee VirusScan Plus 25%
F-Secure Anti-Virus 14%

For a good couple of years now OneCare/Forefront has been well above average on detection rates for new malware and on false positives.  MSE using the same engine will continue this trend, and if anything improve it as it will give Microsoft a larger sample size to create new definitions on.

What else do Symantec have to say?

"Referring to Microsoft's basic anti-virus and anti-spyware product as an essential security solution is misleading. Consumers need firewall protection, web protection, anti-spam and identity safeguards"

1) Windows XP SP2, Windows Vista and Windows 7 have a built in firewall which is turned on by default. :-)
2) Internet Explorer 7 and 8, and Firefox and other browsers have web protection, i.e. blacklists of known malicious or phishing/identity-stealing websites. :-)
3) Everyone's e-mail, either web-based like Hotmail or Gmail, or their e-mail clients, Windows Mail, Outlook etc all have built in spam filters nowadays. :-)

Seriously Symantec, you're not doing yourself any favours.  Microsoft Security Essentials is the most non-annoying consumer anti-virus ever, not only that it also has one of the best detection engines out there.

Microsoft Security Essentials beta now live

The beta for Microsoft Security Essentials is now available from Connect, or find your way there from the official homepage.

Highly recommended.

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