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Microsoft Security Essentials Beta Available June 23

Microsoft on Tuesday will roll out a public test version of its free consumer security application, which was previously known by its code name, "Morro."

Microsoft is now replacing the Morro name, calling the new application "Microsoft Security Essentials." A public beta will be available for testing on Tuesday, June 23, according to a "Microsoft Security Essentials Fact Sheet." The Fact Sheet, dated June 2009, was provided via e-mail today by a Microsoft spokesperson.

Various news outlets have been showing screen shots of a pre-beta version of Microsoft Security Essentials. According to those screenshots, the installer for the program contains a Microsoft Genuine Advantage application that checks to see if the user is running a non-pirated copy of Windows. If not, Microsoft Security Essentials does not install, according to an Addictive Tips article.

The check for genuine copies of Windows seems counter to Microsoft's initial stated purpose when it unveiled Morro. The company announced in November that "the new solution will address the growing need for a PC security solution tailored to the demands of emerging markets." Microsoft typically faces piracy issues in those very same emerging-market countries, especially where the cost of Windows is unaffordable.

Microsoft currently provides free monthly security patches, even to users of pirated Windows copies. However, the company doesn't seem willing to let non-legitimate Windows users run Microsoft Security Essentials.

Morro also was supposed to be a replacement for Microsoft's OneCare online security consumer offering, which Microsoft plans to terminate. Retails sales of OneCare are scheduled to end on June 30, but the service still may be available through other channels. The Microsoft spokesperson stated that the company has not "made any announcements regarding the end of direct-to-consumer sales [of OneCare] or the subscription service."

Microsoft said in November that "direct sales of OneCare will be gradually phased out when 'Morro' becomes available." However, it seems likely that Morro, or Microsoft Security Essentials, will still be at beta by that time. Microsoft promises to keep supporting OneCare customers for the duration of their year-long subscription.

Microsoft Security Essentials will be designed to protect against rootkits, spyware, trojans and viruses, according to Microsoft's Fact Sheet. It will provide "real-time" protection and can validate threats in the wild in near-real time via a feature Microsoft calls "dynamic signature service." Certain actions will automatically trigger Microsoft's dynamic signature service, such as downloads of malicious content, "unexpected network connections" and attempts to modify the user's system, according to the Fact Sheet.

Microsoft is recommending the removal of other anti-virus and anti-spyware programs before installing Microsoft Security Essentials to avoid performance problems. Many have speculated that Microsoft's free anti-malware program will provide direct competition to security solution providers such as Computer Associates, McAfee and Symantec. Those vendors all offer more comprehensive security suite products for a price, compared with the free Microsoft Security Essentials, which has more basic functionality.

Microsoft Security Essentials will be capable of running on Windows XP SP2 and SP3, Windows Vista and Windows 7, according to the Fact Sheet. The beta will be available in Brazil, Israel and the United States on June 23, and will be available some time later this year for testing in China.

Those wanting to try the beta will be able to get it at this site, which will become active on June 23.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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