Small Businesses Get Free Microsoft Antivirus on October 7

Microsoft will offer its consumer antimalware solution for Windows systems to small businesses on Thursday, Oct. 7 at no cost.

Last month, the company announced a plan to roll out Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) to small businesses for free use. However, a date wasn't specified then. On Oct. 7, the security solution can be downloaded here, and it will provide protection for up to 10 Windows-based PCs per organization at no cost, according to Microsoft's announcement issued today.

For organizations with more than 10 Windows-based PCs, Microsoft offers a series of software security products under its Forefront brand, which are specifically designed for enterprise use. Microsoft claims that the Forefront team also developed MSE, but the products are disparate. MSE is more of a stripped-down antimalware solution, with few features except for a simplified security alert screen. MSE also it lacks centralized management controls that IT departments may require.

Still, MSE offers basic antimalware protection for PCs at no cost, provided that the user has a "genuine" licensed copy of Windows. MSE users have to consent to a Microsoft scan of their operating system before being qualified to use the antivirus solution.

The one-year-old security solution is fairly new, but it's already widely used. MSE has been used by "over 30 million customers in 74 different countries around the world," according to Eric Ligman, global partner experience lead for the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group, in a blog post.

Microsoft originally rolled out MSE with the idea of stemming the tide of malware and viruses seen in poorer countries as part of its "Morro" security solution project. The idea back then was that some Windows users couldn't afford to pay annual subscription costs for antimalware protection.

The spirit of the Morro effort appears to still be evolving for Microsoft. On the legal front, Microsoft has taken aggressive legal steps of late to shut down so-called "botnet" computer networks, such as the Waledac botnet, that spread malware around the globe.

This week, Scott Charney, Microsoft's corporate vice president for trustworthy computing, announced a need for global collective defense against malware and software security threats. In a position paper, "Collective Defense: Applying Public Health Models to the Internet" (PDF download), he argues for a largely private industry response to attacking botnets and protecting consumer devices from Internet-borne threats. If that response fails, he suggests government action.

Charney's paper sees a need for "health certificates" to be created for devices to help ensure security. The idea appears to coincide -- at least conceptually -- with Microsoft HealthVault, a software mechanism for sharing personal health data with physicians that aims to also protect patient privacy.

How exactly user privacy for devices would be maintained under such a security system remains unclear. Charney offered no specifics in his paper.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.


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