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Anti-virus software built in to Windows 8 – yay or nay?

Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8 operating system will come built in with beefier anti-virus security software than its predecessors. Is this move anti-competitive, or simply good news for PC users?

Microsoft is reportedly adding to its Defender tool, already built in to Windows, and adding some of the best bits of Microsoft Security Essentials.

Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) is Microsoft’s anti-virus and anti-malware product. It’s already available free of charge and has performed well in our previous anti-virus tests, so why wouldn’t you want this to be built in to Windows 8? I have my reasons.

Sarah Kidner doesn’t want integrated anti-virus

I remember a time when Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE) browser wasn’t part of the operating system. You were free to choose any browser you’d like.

Microsoft’s decision to bundle the OS and browser together wasn’t without controversy. The European Commission investigated Microsoft for anti-competitive practices, which resulted a choice of web browser being required when you install Windows.

This has enabled fair competition and has driven Microsoft’s browser rivals to innovate. In turn this has seen IE toppled as the default browser of choice.

If Microsoft is to build anti-virus security into Windows 8, I’d like to see a similar approach – users should be able to choose from a range of both free and paid-for software during the installation process.

Personally, I’d probably still plump for MSE as it performs well in our tests and doesn’t lock you into an annual subscription fee; but that isn’t the point. Giving us a choice will spur the creators of paid-for anti-virus software to up their game and innovate.

There’s nothing like a little healthy competition to keep a company on its toes, otherwise we’re simply handing Microsoft the security software market on a plate.

Andy Vandervell is up for built-in anti-virus

Competition is an emotive thing. In the free market it’s considered essential (‘monopolies are bad’ is an almost universally agreed fact) whereas in public services it sparks serious, often polarising debate. But, in this case, what’s good for competition isn’t necessarily good for the consumer.

The EU’s argument with Microsoft and its bundling of IE in Windows is a case in point. It might have been tough for competitors, but how could Microsoft not bundle IE in with Windows? How, in a sane world, could a ‘state-of-the-art’ operating system not have a pre-installed web browser? It’s the most used program on almost every PC in the world.

And now Microsoft has decided to integrate anti-virus at the core of Windows 8, the same question arises – how have we lived so long without this? For years we’ve battled with generating awareness about computer security – always install anti-virus, we said. Wouldn’t life have been so much easier if Windows had it out-of-the-box already?

The reason it didn’t, of course, was Microsoft feared being dragged through the courts. In other words, consumers were denied a better, more secure product because Microsoft feared legal reprisals.

Belated as it is then, Microsoft’s move has to be a good thing. And given free anti-virus has been available for several years now and the industry hasn’t imploded, I think we can safely say it can cope with a little ‘free’ competition.

Do you agree with Sarah or Andy? Will having anti-virus software built in to Windows 8 be good news for your PC’s security, or will it stifle competition and lock us into Microsoft’s software?

Should Microsoft's own anti-virus software be built in to Windows 8?

Yes - Windows should be secure out-of-the-box (61%, 624 Votes)

No - you should have a choice of anti-virus (28%, 288 Votes)

I don't mind either way (11%, 110 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,021

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Joshua said:

‘Today, all the major browsers are free. The reason? IE. So what if Microsoft made some for-profit company go out of business? What Microsoft did was good for the user, and that is what matters.’

You are absolutely correct that all the major browsers are free, but what Microsoft did wasn’t good for the user for nearly 10 years. By bundling IE, Microsoft killed off all competition and for many years, IE was the only realistic choice on Windows. As usually happens to products with no competition, IE stagnated and saw no improvements until serious competition from the Open Source world came along, such as Firefox. What’s more, IE was defective by design because it ran (I suspect still runs) in kernel space, rather than user space as an application should. This meant that IE was a rich target for malware, because if it was compromised, the attacker could gain full access to the machine, so he could do what he liked.

When other browsers came along, they were designed from the ground up to be secure. They also came with innovative features such as tabbed browsing and add-ons. Once the competion reached critical mass, Microsoft were forced to compete again and the result is that the latest versions of IE are much better.

The bottom line is that users suffered nearly a decade of terrible security issues due to Microsoft’s actions. If the company didn’t have such a bad track-record of monopolistic practices and poor software engineering skills, then a free bundled virus scanner might be a good thing. Unfortunately, they cannot be trusted, and I think that it will all end in tears.

>The bottom line is that users suffered nearly a decade of terrible security issues due to Microsoft’s actions

the bottom line is not micrsoft’s fault it is that there are mailitous people out there who will do anytthing to steal you money (via malware, spam, viruses etc etc)

windows 7 is as secure as most other OS’s, blaming micrsoft because most people use Windows XP (an 11yr old OS!!!!!), and dont bother to install antivirus is not exacltly fair,

Then if MS were to try address those shortcoming by installing security essential by default through windows update it would undoubtedly cause huge complaints despite the positive actual impact.

so yes Microsoft should include AV as standard in Windows 8.

(and the all Apple users out there are not immune as the recent Java malware problem highlighed, Apples slothfull reaction to providing a security patch , long after MS and Oracle other vendors did, should be possible warning of thing to come …)

Mike Said:

‘the bottom line is not micrsoft’s fault it is that there are mailitous people out there who will do anytthing to steal you money (via malware, spam, viruses etc etc)’

That is true of course, but if Ford were to sell cars with locks that could be picked with a lollipop stick there would be an outcry (a better analogy might be a car immobiliser that a brainless teenage twokker could overcome with ease).

The reality is that MS Windows has been wide open to external attack since its inception. This is why many viruses are written by so-called ‘script-kiddies’; they really are kids. Macs and Linux machines are hardly ever compromised because it is so much harder to do it; it needs high-powered computer science capabilities to even know how to begin.

The counter argument usually given to this statement is that there aren’t as many Mac or Linux computers, so the target is much smaller. That may be true of Macs, (although Mac owners are usually high earners, so that ought to count). It certainly isn’t true of Linux, which runs more devices on the planet than any other OS. Linux desktop machines are in a minority, but it is used for most web and file servers, databases, routers, TVs and just about anything that uses a processor. Since an attack on a webserver can result in vastly more riches that an attack on an individual’s desktop PC, you might wonder why internet ever works at all. It does because Linux is designed with security in mind instead of being full of holes.

So yes, the crooks are ultimately to blame, for Windows viruses but the supplier has to shoulder most of the responsibility for making it so easy for them.

Gael says:
18 July 2012

An outraging thing to me about MS OS is that all over a number of years and releases they haven’t been able to provide a secure enviroment to run applications,

which, WTF, is one of the main goals when developing an OS architecture!!

And yet, they’re the number one selling brand when it comes to desktop computers OSs.

Is not a matter of who is working on it, is a matter of who has the responsability. Install an antivirus if you want EXTRA security, but built in security should be enough for the average user.