Security

Microsoft's new antivirus is fair game for home businesses

Many free security utilities are restricted to personal or non-commercial use. Microsoft bucks that trend by giving license to home-based enterprises.

Many free security utilities are restricted to personal or noncommercial use. Microsoft bucks that trend by giving license to home-based enterprises.

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Working in the education sector for a number of years, I got very adept at running our department on a pretty lean IT budget. I used free and open-source software wherever I could in an effort to economize. When I couldn't find a free substitute for a particular application, I always paused to ask myself "Is this a program we really need?" One class of software that always passed the necessity test was security utilities. It's not wise to run a network of Windows machines without antivirus protection and malware scanners in place, that's for certain. We always ended up licensing our AV software, because I never found a free package that I felt confident running.

That's not to say there aren't a ton of free security products available. A quick Web search is all it takes to prove that there are options. Few of those products that are marketed as free downloads are authorized for use in businesses or organizations, however. If you read the terms and conditions, many of the most notable free security applications are licensed only for personal or noncommercial use.

Microsoft is setting a fresh standard with its new product, Microsoft Security Essentials. While the free antivirus and malware utility is specifically licensed for use at home, the company makes an allowance for commercial use of the software. From the Security Essentials license agreement:

INSTALLATION AND USE RIGHTS. Use. You may install and use any number of copies of the software on your devices in your household for use by people who reside there or for use in your home-based small business.

Why should this development matter to support pros? Why should you recommend Microsoft's free product over any of the others? It can tempting to recommend free security software to thrifty clients, but if their machines are used for any business purposes at all then they may not be eligible to use most other free products. In any instance where you recommend or install software outside of its license, you open your clients and yourself to legal liability. IT professionals should never knowingly put their clients at risk. By steering them toward Microsoft Security Essentials, you can help the home businesspeople you support protect their machines and save money, all without violating the legal rights of another company.

53 comments
kgunnIT
kgunnIT

I personally like the fact that Microsoft has allowed use for small businesses and I am glad to see they are issuing a free AV product. This is the way it should have been from the beginning. There next step oughtta be their free AV installed on all machines by default. It can only help Microsoft by securing their machines from the beginning. I think this can be expected with Windows 8. I have been using MSE on my personal machine and find it to be very comparable to free and paid AVs on the market. Full system scan is a little slow, but this AV does not take up a lot of system resources. One feature I would like to see is the ability to send email alerts when a threat is detected during a scan. I have found email alerts are useful when trying to maintain a handful of computers.

mightybaine
mightybaine

I fix family and friends computers all the time (at the risk of have more free time), and I do not beleive in the free software thing (anti-virus). The free software is almost always not user frienly because they need to be updated by the user and they constantly forget to update, and when there is a new worm or trojan out there they get it and call me (a lot of them have learned their lesson though for trying to be so cheap, when I have had enough of being part of their family they have to call the Geek Squad and pay a fortune to get it fixed when they could have just spent about 40 dollars or less to solve the problem).

dwcompton
dwcompton

Where can I download the software?

darpoke
darpoke

this requires that one have faith in Microsoft to secure your product. Isn't their software one of the major reasons why pc users need protection in the first place? Just curious.

williamjones
williamjones

Microsoft is allowing home businesses to use its free security software. That's in direct opposition to most other companies that give away software only for personal use. Are you aware of any other free antivirus or malware scanners that can be used in commercial settings? In my research, I determined that the Spybot and Malwarebytes appear to have unencumbered versions, and the ClamAV project is open-source. I'd love to know if you have other candidates to recommend.

JCitizen
JCitizen

And does it have it? I've read very little how well that works.

user support
user support

Our business allows users to use a common license at home for McAfee software to make sure files transferred between home and work don't get infected. The helpdesk however does not support the home user. It is incumbent upon them to read the requirements for installation and running of the McAfee software. I recommend that most users try what the company offers first. If that doesn't work out, see if their ISP offers an anti-virus program. I believe Comcast does, I am not sure about Verizon. Personally, I look at free downloads as reviewed by Kim Komando http://www.komando.com/downloads/ I was using AVG but they added something last year that bloated the software so I switched to Avast. Both products can be configured to automatically update. I don't consider myself a Microsoft basher but some of their products don't work that well until they buy out a competing company that has a better product. When Microsoft buys out a security company that builds a better product, then more people might try their security products.

Cybrduck
Cybrduck

Unfortunately, Microsoft would need to go through it's own legal issues to bundle an AV application with the OS. Remember, they are on thin ice when it comes to bundled software. Of course, I can't wait to hear about the CD burning "feature" of Windows 7 catching flak. If everything is kept in mind for the consumer, then I would say Microsoft is doing a good thing with the free offer of AV security. It can't be seen as a move to cut out paid packages because there are a ton of free offerings, even for home-based businesses.

mudpuppy1
mudpuppy1

I've been using it for about a month on my PC's at home. I find it to be quite user-friendly and it does prompt for updates just about everyday (I think you have to have Windows Update set to one of it's auto or semi-auto settings for this to work, not sure though). It's a tad slow with the scan, but it did find something on an old hard drive I attached to see what was on it. And it includes Windows Defender. It doesn't update automatically (that I've noticed), but at least it does tell you updates are available.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

and never had a problem with them updating regularly, although I've had problems with McAfee.

kcjellow
kcjellow

This AV updates automaticaaly for you. So does Avast home version so users dont have to worry about updates.

kgunnIT
kgunnIT

I use free software whenever possible, particularly open source because I am not tied down by licenses. Currently, my business uses ClamWin, which I have found to be pretty robust. The only downside is that there is no real-time scanning, but I counter this with scheduled daily system scans. Most of my users don't even know the thing is scanning while they are working. The biggest thing I like about ClamWin is email alerts. If a virus is detected, I get an email alert. This comes in very handy when you are dealing with a dozen computers and laptops. I have found it to detect false positives, but this can be quickly determined by sites such as http://www.virustotal.com/ and http://virusscan.jotti.org/en. This program auto-updates as well. The thing I don't like about paid programs is that they take up far more system resources, McAfee being the worst.

melias
melias

even if I am not logged in. I have noticed that AVG is now blocking web adds that start their own threads. It has stopped most of the page hi-jacking via web adds I used to experience.

TheProfessorDan
TheProfessorDan

Are we forgetting MS's first attempt at virus/spyware protection, windows defender? It was to say the least a joke and if you did attempt to use it you better get a priest to get exorcise it out of your system. Trust me, McAfee and Symantec have nothing to worry about.

WhoCare$
WhoCare$

What exactly are you saying here; that it's Microsoft's fault why your PC gets viruses and spyware. Where did you come up with this theory, did you pull it out of thin air or someplace darker? Now I'm not saying that Microsoft productions don't have flaws they do (Windows ME, Vista) but they are not to be blamed for your system being infected with malware. Linux and MAC OS's have plenty of flaws but you never hear about them because they're on such a small percentage of PCs. When they gain a larger market share it's fair game and the truth will come out especially with Linux where even my grandmother is writing codes for it (open source or open invitation to hack - you be the judge.) Yes the question still remains ?can you trust Microsoft?s security product.? If what we saw in OneCare is any example then I would say ?YES WE CAN? just like we trusted the other products, keeping in mind that no malware detection software detects everything and educating users is the safest malware prevention of all. Plus at a price tag of ?FREE? c?mon you can?t beat that especially if you are a small business user.

kgunnIT
kgunnIT

I have switched my personal computer to MSE and have recommended it some users. The reason? I believe Microsoft has the best knowledge when it comes to secure their own OS. Who can do better job securing something other than the designer themselves? Every time I question whether or not MSE is right for me or not, I am reminded of paid programs like McAfee, which was known a few months ago to cripple computers due to a false positive that was detected and removed. The false positive happened to be in an essential Windows file, and users had to reinstall Windows or go through hours of repairing Windows. I can't imagine Microsoft's own product making the same mistake. I would imagine there are safeguards against it.

nospam.online
nospam.online

You kind of have a point, but, MS doesn?t write the Trojans, virus's (come on conspiracy theory folks, chime in now) but it?s most often the product's that have the holes to be exploited. Sadly it?s part of the overall cost and ?effect? if you will that so many want to hurt MS but really hurt the rest of the world that has little choice in what they use. Sadly for the ?hacker? the miss the whole point, they will not harm MS, it?s just not going to happen, after all the Gov. Sued, won, but the court order was never obeyed and never completed. Now we continue to be forced to use MS browser or face issues with trying to use others.

melias
melias

Saying Microsoft is why PC users need protection is like saying GM or Toyota or VW is the reason why people need car insurance. It's not the PCs or the OSs fault, it the fault of the a***oles who make the malware. Now, as to whether or not MS makes A/V software you can trust, that is a good question.

teebos
teebos

why is the Microsoft Essentials not available in South Africa????

JCitizen
JCitizen

Does that mean small business? I don't know - but you can integrate it with ClamAV to make a very good combo for most folks. I don't know if it can run on linux though, the system requirements don't say that it can. Too bad! That would have made a good combo for dedicated linux financial transaction system units!

Rastor9
Rastor9

I still remember a little known web browser that was given away for "free", when the rest of the world charged for their web browsers such as Netscape, AOL (not a real web browser), etc. I seem to remember some kind of little lawsuit about it, especially when they included it with the operating system.....But then again, I am old in technology years and might not have that much RAM left for thought.

kingcomputing
kingcomputing

Have used Comodo Internet Security and except for some problems after updates seemed to work reasonably well. Can be fairly intrusive with prompts requiring actions and the way it marks files as safe etc. The company has pledged to keep the product free to help keep the Internet safe. See manifesto: http://www.comodo.com/about/trusted-internet.php?utm_source=firewall...1 Another product that appears to be free for business use is PCTools AV. Have read license agreement but not 100% certain: http://www.pctools.com/en/info/eula/product/anti-virus/

TNT
TNT

I'm testing it on my 64-bit Vista desktop and an XP netbook and so far it's doing great. I replaced Avira with it and have noticed no performance decrease (or increase, for that matter). I backed both applications with ThreatFire though, preferring two separate programs and technologies to protect my PC's. I transitioned to SE the day of its release and have had no problems yet.

SmartAceW0LF
SmartAceW0LF

Yes it does have real-time protection. If it did not, I wouldn't own it. Do you feel the drain of your resources while it does it's duty? Only on the earliest of XP-ready machines and even then it isn't to the point of being annoying. Dont take my word for it though. Try it. If you are currently using any of the free security/AV/AS applications available at this time, you will be glad you tried it.

TNT
TNT

You mentioned Microsoft products aren't that good until they buy out a competing product. Not sure I agree with the premise, but they have already bought not one, but two antivirus companie. In 2005 they bought Sybari Software and GeCAD Software, which is where OneCare came from. Microsoft now has possibly the largest database of viuses ever compiled. ForeFront and SecurityEssentials are both based on these acquired technologies.

SmartAceW0LF
SmartAceW0LF

This package is quite good. Small footprint, efficient and as thorough as anything I have seen yet. Perhaps if MS purchased Norton or McAfee you might find the product more credible? Microsoft Security Essentials is NOT bloatware, it gets the job done, and is NOT restricted to a sole genre of Malware. i.e. Virus or Spyware. And it's free. For now.

JCitizen
JCitizen

I would say that is good enough for government work! However your advice is sound. Thanks for the input!

JCitizen
JCitizen

I've had better luck with NIS 2010 believe it or not! The latest Norton versions have been running well on older PCs. I've double checked it's performance using better dedicated AV like Avast, and NOD32, and I can't find any infections. I was truly shocked to find this, believe me as I am WAY not a Norton fan. I had to buy it with my PC as the OEM didn't give me a choice, but I still prefer stand alone solutions. G-DATA was one of the top solutions at AV comparatives this year, and I've tried it on older machines to good effect. It has a combo of Avast's heuristics and bitdefender's scanning engines. The client had other software issues, so I'm not sure that G-DATA was the source of some of the slow downs he was experiencing. This seems to be a good two punch knock out; but I still say it is a wait and see situation there. I may switch to it after dumping NIS later this year. I liked the alerts it provided, which gave me a good purview of what was going on inside the LAN. The scanner even found some old Norton quarantine files still left on the PC. Most of my SMB clients use gateway routers.Some even try the services these hardware devices offer.

JCitizen
JCitizen

and bad server host file. Uses no detectable resources, and has REAL TIME active X protection. Also for FREE, but I pay 'em 9 bucks a year for automatic updating, works like a champ on Vista x64. [b](edited)I am not taking into consideration that Spyware Blaster and Adaware are not free for commercial use however; that is why I push the cheap but good solutions for SMBs. G-Data is only something like $32 dollars a year (on sale now), so is another really good cheap solution.[/b] AVG has done nothing but hose my clients computers right and left. The first thing out of my mouth when I get a service call is,"Your using AVG, aren't you?" And, yep! That is what the problem is! I don't see how they can stand that bloated POS anyway - it is SOOO SLOOWWW on older PCs! I switch them to Avast and run several good free malware utilities as well. AdAware is now getting to be a RAM hog, but they are trying a new hueristic engine that may be worth it in the long run. One of the biggest threats online now is malware, not viruses, and I'd consider AdAware which has a free AdWatch real time protection in the fore front of this venue of the war on malware. But you probably need at least a gigabyte of RAM to handle it all. Spybot Search & Destroy has fallen behind, I'm afraid, but I wish the Tea Timer were available as a stand-alone, as it was one of the best real time registry protections. SuperAntiSpyware has very cheap real time protection, but I've found it a tad buggy, and slowing performance with it's nagging startup habits. A-squared is an excellent deep scanner, but I've not purchased it's real time protection. It really has no reputation on that point, but despite a high false positive rate is an excellent scanner. For just all around good protection against the most dangerous malware, MBAM is a light weight highly effective weapon - the realtime protection is good, and very cheap at 20 something for a [b]life time[/b] license. You can't beat that even if it isn't free. I don't work for any company or man - I just hate malware to pieces!

dwcompton
dwcompton

I own an On-site Computer Business and AVG Free is fine for home use but not for Home Based Business. I like the idea of a free anti-virus for Home Based Business. This keeps the legal problems out of the picture that may arise from a Home Based Business using a free version of AVG or any other free anti-virus software thats not supposed to be used for any type of business application.

nospam.online
nospam.online

Well, I just had to dump AVG free since they dont keep the free version as up to date as the paid one.

TNT
TNT

Not sure what experience you've had with Defender, but it's not really an anti-virus tool. Defender's purpose is to remove known malware (after its on your system) and to block pop-ups. I've been running it on all my windows systems for years without any difficulty. I mostly forget its there. Microsoft's last attempt at antivirus was Live OneCare, and it was pretty decent. It wasn't free and did compete head-to-head with McCaffey and Symantec (neither of which will I ever trust my system to).

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

The other free AV / spyware apps are the 'competition', if there can be said to be competition between free products. I replaced McAfee with it today, but I was running a free version through my workplace's license agreement.

Richard Noel
Richard Noel

First, I agree that unless they are releasing software with known security vulnerabilities to market, then Microsoft is not to blame for malware infestations. HOWEVER, I've been hearing that same line about Apple and now Linux, only being safer because there aren't as many installations and "hackers" don't go after them because they want a larger base of potential victims. This line of thinking no longer holds water for me. If the motivation of these nefarious coders is to have enough "zombie" computers to threaten or blackmail large sites into paying not to be shutdown, then it's a numbers game. How many millions PC's do they need to control? There are plenty Apple installations out there to be able to bring down large websites. AND I'd be willing to bet that most of those Apple installations don't have any anti-malware software installed on them. Wouldn't that make them a prime target for any group to go after? Let's face it, if Mac's had the same glaring vulnerabilities as Microsoft's OS seem to have, there'd be people out there looking to take advantage of them. Also there would be plenty of notoriety for the first person to code a "Conflicker" virus for Mac. Let's be honest, an operating system can be a very complicated piece of software. But a company with the resources available to Microsoft could do a better job of tightening up their code.

spaul940
spaul940

Gosh, I use both Firefox and Chrome and never have any issues. Parden me for saying this but you sound like a MAC bigot!

schroed
schroed

I uninstalled AVG 8.5 free and installed MSE. Seems OK so far, but a full scan with AVG only (!) used to take 2.5 hours, with MSE it's closer to 5 hours. It also makes my browser (FF latest) glitch a bit whilst it's running. I'm running XP Pro SP3 on a dual-core laptop with two GB of RAM.

JCitizen
JCitizen

part of the firewall is probably the single most effective way to ensure a defense against Zues and the URL variants attacking banking and shopping commerce right now. It seems to be broken in XP, but still swimming along in Vista x64. A very good ADDITIONAL defense alongside the UAC!!

jjenkins
jjenkins

Thank you, I've been looking for a good solution for classroom environment for some time now. Having read through the PCTools AV License myself, I think this will work.

willshattuck
willshattuck

I'm sure we all know this already. It is even more crucial when dealing with small and at home businesses. Backing up data is essential even when you have an antivirus product installed. My wife's system had AVG Free on it, but was constantly infected with malware from Facebook ads and applications. I did two things that eliminated the infections. First, I switched to Avira Antivirus which notifies you every day that it has updates. Second, I switched her to Firefox. No more infections. However, prior to those switches, I did have to wipe and reinstall her laptop. Fortunately, booting off of the Ultimate Boot CD 4 Windows (http://www.ubcd4win.com) and copying her data to a networked computer fixed the issue of saving data. However, if her hard drive crashed we would have been at a loss to recover the data. We backup our servers and essential computers. But many home and small business users don't perform backups. GFI has a free backup software package (http://www.gfi.com/backup-hm) which I haven't tried and I haven't read the EULA, but I wanted to put it out there as a possible option. Have a great weekend.

JCitizen
JCitizen

I'll have to take a second look at ThreatFire. I have learned that the AV/AS market is in chaos and brand loyalty just doesn't exist for now!

JCitizen
JCitizen

to seeing your participation in the future! =)

bgfores
bgfores

Thanks to Jcitizen and billy parsons for their comments, I've been waiting sometime for people like these guys to let me know how MSE performs before installing. More power to you guys!

JCitizen
JCitizen

I'm asking for my clients. Most of them are using Avast for now, but if Essentials approaches Awill's performance, which I think it has, it would be better for them to use this MS offer. My clients that actually use their computers for business, use NIS 2010, but not because I recommend it, but because they are so computer challenged, that Symantec does a lot of hand holding, and that is why I leave it on their machines. Surprisingly I've evaluated machines that had this installed and no virus was found by NOD 32 or other competent utility! I was very surprised, so now I let them have there favorite AV solution. Mine came with my PC, but I'm uninstalling it as soon as the original OEM license expires. This year AV comparatives pointed to G-Data as the over all winner of this years evaluation.

pdr5407
pdr5407

Microsoft still releases updates to Windows Defender on the Updates website each month, so it should be an effective product at preventing spyware on your systems. I use it on my Vista system and have not had any sypware problems. I run a full scan every two weeks.

JCitizen
JCitizen

The only paid for AV that approaches Avast in combat effectiveness is NOD32. My honeypot wars have proven few AV vendors survive in action. Trend Micro used to be a contender until 2007. Only light weight stand alone solutions for me! I must admit one of the most progressive malware utilities seems to be AdAware; although this latest experiment in heuristic analysis my be a disaster. It is a serious CPU & RAM hog again. And just when they seemed to be getting it right. The lifetime license for MBAM seems well worth it for right now. With no I/O firewall available for Vista right now, it seems the irreplaceable AS solution for now.

SmartAceW0LF
SmartAceW0LF

I must say I agree wholeheartedly with the last paragraph in your post. I find it hard to validate a singular instance of anything else within it as long as OSX still holds less than 15 percent of the market share. I chuckle at some of the naive statements in your post. I sincerely hope that someday Apple improves their market standing with OSX. It could only improve for all computer users world-wide. QUOTE: How many millions PC's do they need to control? There are plenty Apple installations out there to be able to bring down large websites. UNQUOTE: It doesnt take MILLIONS to do it. Only a few thousand (or less). By the time you remove the newbie factor from all of these "plenty of Apple installations" you refer to, you would probably be left with a few hundred choices and then could only hope to get some out of that. Don't let your infatuation with a given brand cloud your judgment. Do some math.

TNT
TNT

There are plenty of other forums that debate the "security through obscurity" argument, let's not get into that here. Let's just say that Windows is inherently less secure because of the multiple vendor's and devices that have to work with it. Mac controls the hardware their OS runs on, which gives them an edge in this arena.

JCitizen
JCitizen

I use AdBlock Plus in Firefox, but I was just about ready to suggest to folks to switch to MSE; now I withhold judgement until I see an improvement.

TNT
TNT

I don't think he is anything of the sort. In the banking industry in particular some browsers work and others simply do not. Until a few months ago my companies banking system required the use of IE 6 to function. Their recent update is more browser friendly, but I can see how, especially in government, the powers that be may require use of IE for compatibility with their poorly written apps.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Malware can be spread by means other than a web browser. E-mail, flash drives, phishing, etc. As to his being Mac bigot, he said nothing that favored another OS, either Mac, Linux, or otherwise. Speaking negatively of MS doesn't indicate favoring another product. In my case it indicates a desire for Redmond to improve.

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