Ever since Microsoft's Security Essentials security software was released back in 2009, concerns came up about Security Essentials being bundled with Windows. These concerns went away when Security Essentials failed a set of tests by companies such as AV-TEST. Now, Microsoft has come out and admitted that this security software is intended to be a baseline first-layer of security for Windows.
AV-Test, an independent testing lab in Germany, publishes test results every two months and usually looks at 25 different consumer antivirus security programs. AV-TEST has failed Security Essentials on more than one occasion bringing concerns about the usefulness of the software.
"Microsoft is simply focusing on tracking emerging threats and sharing that data."
According to Holly Stewart, senior program manager of the Microsoft Malware Protection Center, Microsoft is operating the Security Essentials software under a "baseline stragety." So what does that mean? Microsoft explains that Security Essentials is simply a first-layer of protection and that customers should use an additional third-party antivirus solution on top of Security Essentials.
"We had an epiphany a few years ago, back in 2011, where we realized we had a greater calling and that was to protect all Microsoft customers. But you can’t do that with a monoculture and you can’t do that with a malware-catching ecosystem that is not robust and diverse. It’s not as efficient to have one kind of weapon. Like anything you must have that diversity. It’s a weakness to just have one," Stewart explained.
In the past, Microsoft did its best to improve Security Essential test rankings but decided that they should focus on prevalent/emergent threats instead. "We developed this new telemetry to look for emerging threats - sort of an early notification system that new threats were emerging. We had this group of folks start focusing on those threats and we saw that it increased our protection service level for our customers," she adds.
Microsoft explains further that just because Security Essentials is labeled as "baseline" when it comes to protection, that doesn't mean it is bad. Security Essentials simply provides protection to those on Windows 8 who do not purchase and install an antivirus solution.
Microsoft is simply focusing on tracking emerging threats and sharing that data within the security industry. As a result, Microsoft realizes that Security Essentials will likely continue being ranked poorly in tests. But in essence, thanks to Security Essentials, users can be protected from emergent threats and that data will help improve third party antivirus solutions. Ultimately, a win-win for consumers.