Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Microsoft's impressive array of offerings to secure consumer PCs

I remember the time - some years back - when Microsoft was frequently bashed for not doing enough to make the Windows OS secure. Microsoft apparently took it to heart, and the end-result is that it has built a genuinely impressive range of software and technologies that provide decent-enough protection to end-users (not to be confused with Microsoft's initiative to deliver more secure applications - programs that have less bugs and security-holes, but which may not necessarily actively provide security to the system).

The range of applications and features includes:
  1. Windows Defender
  2. Windows Firewall
  3. Microsoft Security Essentials
  4. Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool
  5. Windows Live OneCare Safety Scanner
  6. Windows Security Center
  7. Data Execution Prevention (DEP)
  8. Automatic Updates/Microsoft Update/Windows Update
This list is applicable to the OS I've primarily been using for 7+ years - Windows XP Professional. Appreciably, Microsoft has made many other (significant) security advancements in Windows Vista and Windows 7, such as User Account Control (UAC), Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR), Windows Service Hardening, etc. Programs such as Internet Explorer 8 do not qualify for this list as the primary purpose of those applications isn't to actively provide protection/security.

It's easy to argue that these technologies don't provide "sufficient" security, compared to products from Symantec or McAfee. But it can't be disputed that these offerings:
  1. Are incredibly easy to use.
  2. Cause minimal disruption in the end-user experience.
  3. Increase the overall security of an end-user's machine.
  4. Provide quite good protection, especially when used together.
  5. Are free - all of them!
A netbook-maker selling machines with Windows XP preinstalled should consider the "Microsoft Suite" I've outlined above, to be given in a preinstalled and optimally-preconfigured form to buyers - as a good alternative to paid products from Symantec and McAfee (allowing it to shave-off a few dollars).

In any case, it's better to ship the machines with fine protection installed, than none.

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