Four antivirus makers have weighed in on the release of Microsoft Security Essentials, and their opinions are all over the place. We asked various security companies for their opinion on MSE, which launched yesterday, and Symantec, ESET, Avast, and AVG responded with their thoughts.
Microsoft claims it is targeting consumers who currently don’t have any protection on their Windows PC, but of course MSE will end up on many computers that already have third-party security software installed. Since MSE is free, the software security market is going to get a serious shake-up, and here’s what Microsoft’s new competitors think about what’s about to happen.
Symantec, maker of the Norton line of products, says MSE doesn’t stand a chance in today’s market: “While we applaud any vendor that heightens consumer awareness of the need for computer security, it’s clear that the threat landscape has moved on from the product Microsoft is launching,” a Symantec spokesperson told Ars. “Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) is a stripped down version of their old OneCare product which was poorly rated by industry experts and users alike. From a security perspective, this Microsoft tool offers reduced defenses at a critical point in the battle against cybercrime. Unique malware and social engineering tricks fly under the radar of traditional signature-based technology alone—which is what is employed by free security tools such as Microsoft’s”
ESET, maker of the NOD32 line of products, is unfazed by the product’s launch: “Certainly basic, but free, protection is better than no protection,” Christopher Dale, Public Relations Manager of ESET, told Ars. “For those whose primary concern is price, we would imagine MSE will hold great appeal while making the freeware market more competitive. The product doesn’t directly impact ESET as we offer a full-featured security solution w/ more configuration choices and free phone support.”
Avast is perfectly fine with Microsoft entering the market: “We are glad to see Microsoft joining us in offering free anti-virus/security protection to users,” Vince Steckler, CEO of Avast, told Ars. “We have long believed that top notch security protection should be freely available—that is why nearly 100 million users around the world protect their computers and data with our free avast! antivirus. Around the world there are about 500 million home computer users that need [to be] protected while using the Internet. We believe only around 20 percent of these users are using a traditional paid security product while 250 million are using avast! or one of the other high-quality free products. Users have already decided that security should be free—there are more users of free avast! than users of all paid products combined. But, free users should not be subjected to inferior or ‘basic’ protection.”
AVG, on the other hand, thinks Microsoft will push its product via as many anticompetitive ways as possible: “Microsoft will likely push MSE out via every automated channel available to them—which in and of itself poses all sorts of interesting anti-trust questions,” Siobhan MacDermott, VP Head of Public Policy, Corporate Communications, and Investor Relations for AVG Technologies, told Ars. “They will focus on gaining consumers through the simplicity of installing the product via routine channels of connection. On paper it makes sense, but in reality, we believe this will force consumers to unwittingly enter into a situation that makes them more vulnerable. Experts agree that the biggest nemesis to Windows was not the vulnerability of its code but rather the popularity of the operating system. It is a law of numbers; large communities create large pools of opportunities for thieves. If Microsoft leverages the power of its OS market to rapidly create a large community of MSE users, we believe those customers will be doubly vulnerable.”
There you have it; two antivirus makers are fine with Microsoft Security Essentials and the other two aren’t. We’re more surprised with the ones that are fine with it, since MSE can potentially steal customers away from them (in fact, many of our readers and users on other forums have already declared they are switching). In our first look at MSE yesterday, we were impressed with what Microsoft was offering as a free download for Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7. For those who have had a chance to install it, how do your thoughts compare to the above statements?