Is Microsoft's Security Essentials Pack an Embarrassment?

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2009-06-22 Print this article Print

NEWS ANALYSIS: Microsoft will make its Security Essentials pack available on June 23. But is its release an embarrassment to Microsoft? Microsoft can argue that it's doing everything within its power to protect users. However, by releasing a new security suite, Microsoft seems to admit that its operating system is not as secure as it should be.

Starting June 23, Microsoft will make the beta version of its new security software, Microsoft Security Essentials, available for download. 

According to Microsoft, Security Essentials will be a follow-up to its previous security suite, Windows Live OneCare. The software focuses on fighting viruses, rootkits and other malware. Unlike OneCare, it won't have any firewall or data backup features. One of the software's main selling points is its small footprint.  Microsoft said Security Essentials sports fewer security packages, which makes it a smaller download than competing software from McAfee or Symantec.

Microsoft Security Essentials will also validate suspicious files to ensure they don't contain newly identified malware. To do so, it will query the company's Dynamic Signature Service. Whenever the software recognizes malware trying to perform an action Microsoft considers risky, such as modifying files and folders deemed necessary for the proper use of the operating system, it will update the Dynamic Signature Service to help all PCs using Security Essentials stay safe.

Finally, Microsoft Security Essentials has some new features that will help it fight rootkits, including kernel structure scans and support for direct file-system parsing. The tool also loads a kernel mode driver to help clean the system of unwanted malware.

Microsoft contends that with all these security features installed, running Windows will be a much safer activity. It believes Security Essentials will provide the kind of security expected from an operating system when it's first fired up. But perhaps there's more at work here than a few new features. Perhaps Microsoft's actions shouldn't be looked at as a company trying to do what it can to help increase the security of its platform.

Maybe the enterprise and consumers should look at Microsoft's decision to deploy Security Essentials as an embarrassment.

As the leader in the space, Microsoft is a big target. Apple's "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" ad campaign constantly takes shots at the company's security features. Linux supporters usually cite Windows security as a key reason to switch from the world's most popular operating system to the world's most open operating system. And all the while, Microsoft needs to do what it can to improve Windows.

Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at

Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel