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Microsoft won't turn on Windows Defender for unprotected PCs

Mark Hachman | Oct. 30, 2013
Microsoft representatives said Wednesday that the company will not turn on Windows Defender for unprotected PCs, contrary to what executives said earlier in the week.

Malware virus

Microsoft representatives said Wednesday that the company will not turn on Windows Defender for unprotected PCs, contrary to what executives said earlier in the week.

Holly Stewart, the senior program manager from the Microsoft Malware Protection Center, misspoke, according to representatives, when she said that Microsoft would turn on Windows Defender if a user’s anti-malware subscription lapsed.

“During an interview when discussing the results of the Microsoft Security Intelligence Report, Microsoft misspoke in response to a question, which resulted in an inaccuracy in the resulting article,” a Microsoft representative said in a statement Wednesday.

However, Windows Defender will be turned on, automatically, if there is no other anti-malware on the system the first time the PC is activated, Microsoft said. If a third-party anti-malware system is activated, Windows Defender will automatically turn off in favor of the third-party solution, Microsoft said. Two other technologies, Smart Screen and App Rep, also are present to help determine if a file or app should be considered as potential malware, based on a reputation system Microsoft developed.

Microsoft security officials spoke on the eve of its latest Security Intelligence Report, (direct download link) which was released Tuesday. As it has been for the past few months, Microsoft’s goal is to move as many of its customers off of the older Windows XP operating system onto something more modern and protected—Windows 8.1, if at all possible.

The idea is to minimize security risks to the PC community at large by essentially shutting down the unintentional security holes discovered within Windows XP. Microsoft will discontinue support for Windows XP in April 2014, allowing those holes to exist, unpatched, forever.

But if the goal is to minimize security risks, then it makes sense for Microsoft to close any holes left open by an unprotected operating system. In some cases, Microsoft executives said, consumers who try out a firewall or anti-malware package aren’t aware of when the trial period expires, so that the PC slips from a protected to an unprotected state. In the case of Check Point Software’s Zone Alarm program, for example, the software simply stopped working after users upgraded to Windows 8.1.

Microsoft’s first priority, however, is to maintain the relationship that a user has struck with the third-party anti-malware provider, said Holly Stewart, the senior program manager from the Microsoft Malware Protection Center. “We have to work collaboratvely across the industry,” she said.

”As a customer goes into an unprotected state, we want those antivirus vendors to be installed as the first upgrade source,” Stewart said. If the license has expired, the first thing Microsoft asks them to do is to go upgrade, she said.

 

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