Microsoft Security Essentials – Beta

Anti Virus(AV) and Anti-Malware software has always been a necessary evil to me. I managed to
go on for years without installing any type of such protection because I believed that if you are
an experienced enough user, you won’t be infected. I saw no reason for installing an additional
piece of software on my system that would eat up precious RAM and instigate disk activity without
any direct benefit to me except protection from some “unknown and harmful software”.

Years passed by and I got non the wiser while malware kept on developing and eventually I broke down
and installed an AV. I have switched several commercial pieces of software and it has always annoyed me
how bloated these applications were and how they affected the performance of my system.
As free Application became available I started using them, always trying to find the one with the smallest footprint.

In August 2009, Microsoft released their first version of Microsoft Security Essentials. One of the first
things that made me happy was that it was a very thin layer that integrated into your system and had
a minimal (to none) impact on performance while providing the required protection.

Almost an year after the initial release a new beta version has been released.

What’s New in the Microsoft Security Essentials beta?

This Beta version of Microsoft Security Essentials includes these new features and enhancements to better
help protect your computer from threats:

  1. Windows® Firewall integration: Microsoft Security Essentials setup allows you to turn on Windows Firewall.
    So this one had me wondering- I mean, what’s the big deal here…does it really deserver a mention
    in the ‘What’s new’ section? Actually it does because it shows how Microsoft is looking at security as
    one whole unit. Security is a layer cake, each layer should be protected and installing only one system might
    provide a sense of security that is actually false-so yes, reminding you to turn on your firewall (if for some odd reason
    you decided to turn it off) is a big deal.
  2. Enhanced protection from web-based threats: Microsoft Security Essentials has enhanced integration with Internet
    Explorer® which helps prevent malicious scripts from running and provides improved protection against web based attacks.
    Microsoft Security Essentials works with Internet Explorer to scan script-based content and help protect you against online
    threats such as drive-by downloads, malvertising, exploits and redirection attacks before they have a chance to compromise
    your computer.When Microsoft Security Essentials detects potentially malicious content in a web page, it immediately blocks
    the content and displays a notification on your desktop. You can choose to block or allow the content to run.
  3. New and improved protection engine: The updated engine offers enhanced detection and cleanup capabilities
    and better performance.

Download

To download the beta you should go to:

https://connect.microsoft.com/securityessentials

Once you are logged in with your account you will receive access to the beta. Please note that some limitations exist as you
can see from the screenshot below:

image image

*Some issues with downloading the software have been reported, yet currently it seems to be functioning quite well.

 

Installation

  1. Basic welcome screen, license and ‘Customer Experience’ screens:
    imageimageimage
  2. If you would like on your firewall, this is the screen to do it. If you turned it off and would like to leave it off
    uncheck the checkbox:
    image
    To be honest I found this screen somewhat confusing. In my opinion if your firewall is on, it shouldn’t appear at all
    since it causes me to think that if I uncheck the checkbox it might turn my firewall off…and it may also raise the
    question of what will happen if I check the checkbox when my firewall is already on(based on my test nothing)…
    Not a big deal but a bit confusing.
  3. Installation process:
    image image image
  4. Once the process is complete, you will have to restart your system. After the restart make sure to update:
    image

Configuring

For a standard user there is not much left to do and the defaults are fine. If you still want to play around with the
settings, open Microsoft Security Essentials(MSE) and go to the ‘Settings’ tab:

image

  1. Scheduled Scan – Quite self explanatory so I won’t add anything here.
  2. Default Actions – This part of the tab defines how MSE will handle threats it identified. For a detailed description
    of the methods click here.
  3. Real-time protection – Enables you turn off/on the real time protection engine. Note the checkbox at the bottom
    of the page enabling network protection against exploits of known vulnerabilities.
  4. Excluded files and locations/Excluded file types/Excluded processes – Specify any exclusions you might need.
  5. Advanced –A couple of unchecked options that might be of interest here:Scan Removable Drives – When running a
    ’Full Scan’ the software will not scan removable drives.
    If you have an external HD (USB) connected to your system
    you should check this checkbox to make sure that it is scanned during full scans.
    The second option to have a look at is the option of ‘Creating a system restore point’ before cleaning your computer.
    This might be beneficial if the malware used may render your computer unusable. Using system restore you might
    return to a usable but infected state.
  6. Microsoft Spynet – Allows you to configure participation levels.

Usage

To test the behavior of MSE, I download the EICAR Anti-Malware file located at:
http://www.eicar.org/anti_virus_test_file.htm

MSE ran it’s magic, suspended the content and warned me about the existence of the threat:

image

As I asked for additional details, MSE allowed me to decide what to do next and provided detailed information about the threat:

image

 

Conclusions

MSE is a free ,‘thin’, and very effective anti-malware software. It has all the features required to protect your
system and considering that this is a beta, the new version looks very promising.