Somehow, in all the other activities of the last couple of weeks I missed the release of Microsoft Security Essentials which is our FREE* anti-virus / anti-malware product aimed at home users. (We have the more business oriented Forefront Client Security as well). My experience with it has been too limited to date to offer much commentary on it: however – since this blog is read mostly by people who work around computers the reason for writing about it is to say this: we all have a friend or family member who doesn’t protect their PC. The availability of software from Microsoft which plugs the gap and is FREE* gives you a chance help them.
Over on the Malware protection center blog Joe has posted an analysis of what it unearthed in its first live week. We’ve had 1.5million downloads, and found 4 million infections on 0.5 million computers. That’s right the average infected computer has eight different infections. I’ve seen numbers like that before and find it a bit unnerving , because there is a long tail effect: lots of machines are clean, some have one or two infections, the average for an infected machine is 8 and beyond that – there are some out there with dozens upon dozens.
Joe breaks down the reports by country: US has the most reports at 25%, then Brazil and China at 17% each the UK only has 2% of the reports. I don’t know if it is because we have fewer installations here or if our PCs are better protected. Unfortunately it is only infection reports which are broken down by country, not downloads or installations. But Joe does break installations down by OS. 44% is Windows 7, 23% Vista and 33% XP. We haven’t even launched 7 properly and it is 44% of the downloads. My guess is that people who are trying out a new OS are keener than the population at large to try new anti-malware from the same source. The final chart Joe has put up shows the ratio of infections per OS – when he says normalized, I’m assuming that means Vista numbers are scaled up and Windows 7 scaled down so they both represent infection rates on a equal number of computers. XP is more than 3 times more likely to have an infection than 7. This isn’t entirely because 7 is better – it will be a newer installation so XP will have had more chances to get infected. XP infections rates are 60% higher than Vista’s. But 7 is running at about half Vista’s rate. As time passes it will be interesting to see how close 7 and Vista end up and how far behind XP lags. I’ve got a hunch that the numbers will change as they move away from people installing the software because they think their PC might be infected and finding something on the first run.
*As it says on the web site Your PC must run genuine Windows to install Microsoft Security Essentials or put another way, if you stole the OS, you’re going to have to figure out how to steal software to protect it.
I must admit, my experience with MSE is also fairly limited, but it's running on both my W7 installs and this XP netbook without a hitch, I've replaced my AVG installs and there's a clear performance difference, MSE's memory footprint alone is much lower than some of its competitors.
Also, I had a tendancy not to run an Anti-Virus/Malware solution due to the intrusive nature of most of this software, however, MSE is nice and discrete, I've yet to actually notice it doing its job so far.