By now you’ve heard that the Security Center in the Windows
Vista October Community Technical Preview (CTP) is sporting a status bar titled
Spyware Protection. Although the status bar is merely
a placeholder and the operating system doesn’t actually contain antispyware software at this point in time, the presence of
the Spyware Protection status bar is a good
indication of what Microsoft has planned for Windows Vista’s Security Center.

In this week’s Windows Vista Report, I’ll take a closer look
at the Spyware Protection status bar and explore the
implications of it presence. As I do so, I’ll expound on the potential for
expansion of Microsoft’s Security initiative in Windows Vista.

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Spyware protection

It’s no real secret that Microsoft has been working on their
stand-alone Windows AntiSpyware software for some
time now independent of Windows Vista. In fact, shortly after Microsoft’s
December 2004 acquisition of the antispyware
technology created by GIANT Company Software, a beta of Windows AntiSpyware (soon to be renamed to Windows Defender) became
freely available on Microsoft’s Security At Home site. It makes sense that Microsoft
would include the AntiSpyware technology in their next
operating system.

As you might expect, the idea that Microsoft would bundled their ownAntiSpyware technology
in Windows Vista, has many folks up in arms and shouting antitrust law
violation. However, when you actually click the Recommendations button in the Spyware Protection status panel, the resulting dialog box
contains a check box that reads “I have an antispyware
program that I will monitor myself”, which indicates that Microsoft will
leave the door open for users to easily install a third-party antispyware program if they so desire.

We’ve seen a similar check box before. In Windows XP SP2,
the Security Center contains a Virus Protection status panel that indicates
users can install any third-party antivirus program
they want.


It’s not hard to imagine that we could possibly see a native
Microsoft ntivirus program in Windows Vista in the
near future. After all, Microsoft did acquire antivirus
technology in 2003 when it bought Romanian antivirus
software developer GeCad Software and Israeli
security software developer Pelican Security.

As you can imagine, having a native antivirus
program would be a real benefit in that the operating system would be able to
defend itself from potential harm right out of the box. And as I’ve already
stated, the Virus Protection status panel in Windows XP SP2, as well as in
Windows Vista, indicates that users can install any third-party antivirus program they want.

The OneCare connection

Further backing up the speculation of native antispyware/antivirus software in Windows Vista is the fact
that over the summer, Microsoft began a limited beta test program for a new standalone
security package called OneCare. This package
combines antispyware software with antivirus and firewall software along with several tune-up
tools for Windows PCs. (See the CNET article “Microsoft
adds to OneCare security beta
” for more

The Malicious Software Removal Tool connection

While OneCare, Windows AntiSpyware and the antivirus
software are all in various stages of development at this point in time,
Microsoft is already using the technology gained from its security software
acquisitions in its Malicious Software Removal Tool. As you may know, when you connect to the Windows Update site and run a
scan for updates, one of the things that the site does is run the Malicious
Software Removal Tool which is designed to detect and remove the most common
malicious software from your system before updates are downloaded and

There are also two ways that you can manually run the scan
anytime you want. You can visit the Malicious
Software Removal Tool page
on the Microsoft site to run the scan. You can
even download a version of the Malicious Software Removal Tool to run locally.
(Two things to keep in mind here: This tool is not a replacement for an antivirus product. Microsoft updates this tool on the
second Tuesday of each month.)

A bit of history

If you’re wondering, the antivirus
software arena is not uncharted territory for Microsoft. Back in the olden days
Microsoft did indeed bundle stripped down versions of Central Point Anti-Virus
with its operating systems. MS-DOS 6 came with Microsoft Anti-Virus for MS-DOS
and Windows 3.x came with Microsoft Anti-Virus for Windows.

Now, as I close, it’s important that I point out that that
Windows Vista’s release date is over a year a way and this is all speculation
at this point in time. As always, if you have comments or information to share
about the potential expansion of Windows Vista’s Security Center, please take a
moment to drop by the Discussion area and let us hear.