The revamped Windows Defender Beta 2, which has been expanded to scan for rootkits, keystroke loggers and other forms of malware, has shed the old Giant AntiSpyware look and feel in favor of a cleaner UI and a brand-new scanning engine that promises better performance.
During a keynote presentation at the RSA Conference 2006 here, Microsoft provided a brief demo of Windows Defender and showed how Web-borne malware attacks can be quarantined—and blocked—in real time.
Combined with the security-focused changes coming in Internet Explorer 7 and the no-admin defaults in Windows Vista, Microsoft officials are touting a secure-by-default operating system featuring "multiple layers of protection."
Windows Defender, which is a free product for licensed Windows customers, now features a streamlined UI to handle alerts and a new Software Explorer feature that promises improved control over programs on a users computer.
The company, based in Redmond, Wash., said the application now supports x64 operating systems and protection technologies for all users, whether or not they have administrator rights on the computer.
The always-visible target icon associated with the old Windows AntiSpyware has been removed, and current users will also notice the icon missing from the system tray. The user will only notice Windows Defender running when theres an alert sent from the product, according to early tests done by eWEEK.
Alerts will no longer come in the form of pop-up windows. Instead, notifications will mimic the yellow balloon used in Windows. Visible alerts and notifications have been turned off by default.
Microsoft said Windows Defender also features automatic cleaning; multiple language support with globalization and localization features; and support for assistive technology for individuals who have physical or cognitive difficulties, impairments, and disabilities.
Windows Defender is also able to update the scanning engine and definitions via Windows Update.
The new beta will ship as an automatic update for existing users.
Although Windows Defender is bundled into Vista, Microsoft said users will be allowed to disable or turn off the utility and install a third-party anti-spyware application. The new Vista Security Center will also be able to detect whether an anti-spyware application such as Windows Defender is running and operating normally.