Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Microsoft Security Essentials: Free is Nice, but is it Enough?

WXPNews: Published by Sunbelt Software since 2001

Vol. 9, #91 - Oct 6, 2009 - Issue #399

 Microsoft Security Essentials: Free is Nice, but is it Enough?

  1. Editor's Corner
    • Cybersecurity Awareness Month Survey
    • Microsoft Security Essentials: Free is Nice, but is it Enough?
    • Follow-up: Security gone wrong
    • Quotes of the Week
  2. Cool Tools
    • Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without
  3. News, Hints, Tips and Tricks
    • What the Most Common Error Messages Mean
    • Survey Says: 40% of XP users don't want to upgrade
    • Windows Mobile 6.5 launch: here it is
    • Web phone applications come under the gun
  4. How To: Using XP Features
    • How to show file extensions only for certain file types
  5. XP Security News
    • Google Chrome Frame can present a security risk
  6. XP Question Corner
    • Will more RAM make my XP computer go faster?
  7. XP Configuration and Troubleshooting
    • How to configure IE browser settings after removing malware
    • SSL connection fails when using IE 6 or 7 on XP to connect to an HTTPS web site
  8. Fav Links
    • This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff
  9. Product of the Week
    • ImTOO HD Video Converter: The Only HD Video Converter You'll Ever Need!

Kiss Your Antivirus Bloatware Goodbye

We asked users of antivirus products what they didn't like about their AV software. They told us they are resource hogs and slowed their computer down. They told us that scan times took way too long, and that the AV software nagged them. In short, old-style AV software takes too much Memory and CPU. Time to switch to VIPRE! It gives you malware protection that combines antivirus, antispyware, anti-rootkit and other technologies into a seamless, tightly-integrated product. Even if you run "free" antivirus software, it hijacks 20% of your PC, so it's really not free at all! Get VIPRE now and see how fast your PC can really be:

 Editor's Corner

Cybersecurity Awareness Month Survey

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month. We're interested in getting your feedback on how you use antivirus software, as well as your experience with top security issues like phishing, malicious web links, and protecting your identity online. We've put together a survey and want to hear from you!

Microsoft Security Essentials: Free is Nice, but is it Enough?

The big news on the tech sites for the past week has been Microsoft's new free Anti-virus and anti-malware product, Microsoft Security Essentials. It's been criticized by Symantec and praised by Paul Thurrott, but what's the real story? Is MSE another evil plot to take over the world and put all the other AV vendors out of business? Is it just a warmed-over version of Live OneCare, a previous consumer-oriented solution from Microsoft that was released amidst much hoopla but never really gained much popularity? Who's it right for - and who is it not right for?

While some of the other AV makers are firing off shots and probably secretly wringing their hands in fear, Sunbelt Software's Alex Eckelberry took a different approach in his comments in a September 29 blog post. You can read it here:

Whose responsibility is security, anyway? Some folks believe Microsoft has a responsibility to provide virus and malware protection along with the operating system, in the same way vehicle manufacturers provide seatbelts and other safety mechanisms with the cars you buy. Others contend that it's the user's responsibility - and choice - to use the appropriate security solution. Of course, the new security software isn't mandatory. It isn't even included with the OS; you have to download and install it (although it's a good bet that such a solution may be incorporated into the client OS in the future, just as the Windows Firewall and Windows Defender are now).

Of course, the best thing about MSE, for many people, is the price: "free" is hard to beat. Yet there are other free AV products, such as AVG and Avast. These have been around for quite some time, but somehow they don't seem to have done too much harm to the sales of the paid AV programs. There are a number of reasons for that.

One problem with most of the "free" solutions is that they're really just "loss leaders" designed to lure users in and convince them to upgrade to the paid versions of the programs. That's all well and good - AV companies have to make money somehow, after all - but some of them take the "nag screens" to the extreme, or even try to trick you into upgrading when you think you're just updating the free program. Because MSE doesn't have this "ulterior motive," I imagine many of the people who are using other free AV programs now will make the switch purely because of the annoyance factor.

One thing that may keep the other free AV offerings alive is the "don't put all your eggs in one basket" philosophy. Many people think that having Microsoft provide the security software to protect their own OS is somehow a conflict of interest. The argument I've heard there is that they can't get as aggressive about protection as a third party because that would mean admitting that the OS is vulnerable in the first place. I don't agree with this theory; if Microsoft wanted to be in denial about vulnerabilities, they wouldn't make an anti-malware program in the first place, and certainly the monthly issuance of security patches could be seen as the same sort of "admission." Still, whether it's because they just don't trust Microsoft to get security right or some other reason, some folks are just more comfortable using a security tool that's made by a different vendor.

The important thing to remember about all of the free solutions is that they tend to be very basic. They don't have the extras that may be important to many users - and that's why people continue to buy subscriptions to the more comprehensive AV solutions. One important example is email scanning. As Alex pointed out in his blog post, MSE doesn't do it. For more tech savvy users, this may be less of an issue, as we already know how to practice "safe email" - not to click on suspicious links, not to open attachments from strangers, and so forth. But for more typical home users, this lack of email protection can be a huge gaping hole. It's a little like what far too many people do at home: diligently deadbolt their front doors and leave the door to the patio unlocked, providing an easy way in for any intruder who cares to jump the backyard fence.

Historically, viruses and worms distributed via email have been some of the most notorious and widespread and have caused the most damage. The first major virus to spread through email was Melissa, which infected computers in 1999 and was responsible for shutting down mail servers from the overload. Email-borne viruses have infected millions of PCs in the years since. As email itself has become more sophisticated, with HTML and embedded scripts replacing plain text, the opportunities for virus writers have expanded. An anti-virus solution that doesn't check email can leave your computer vulnerable.

Another problem being reported with MSE is that it doesn't always catch malicious files that are in zipped folders - even when the setting to scan archived files is enabled. So you might want to refrain from opening .zip files from unknown or untrusted sources if you're using MSE.

I'm giving MSE a test run but I use VIPRE on all of my production computers and the release of MSE isn't going to change that. I recommend VIPRE to those who want a good comprehensive AV/anti-malware scanner that includes email protection, at a reasonable price. With the site license for consumers that lets you put VIPRE on all the computers in your household, it really is well worth the cost. However, if you absolutely don't want to or can't afford to pay for an AV program, MSE is a decent compromise. It's easy to install, does a good job of basic scanning, and won't constantly nag you to "upgrade" to a paid version.

What do you think? Do you trust Microsoft to provide your anti-virus protection or do you think a third party can do it better? Do you need the extra features in a paid AV solution or do you think a free program is "good enough?" Are you considering switching (or have you already switched) from your current security suite to MSE? Does it bother you that MSE doesn't include email protection? If you've tried MSE, what are your first impressions? We invite you to discuss this topic in our forums at

Follow-up: Security gone wrong

In last week's editorial, I talked about what happens when your security measures - whether computer-related or in the "real world" - turn against you. Sometimes readers' interpretations of what I say leave me scratching my head in confusion. Santuccie wrote in the forum: "A HIPS engine may query the user as many as ten times during the installation of a new program, and ten more times after the fact; any one of them could be for real. HIPS engines really do "cry 'Wolf!'" In this article, the author seems to be confusing UAC with a HIPS engine, which it is not."

When someone says something like this, I always go back and read my original article. Did I say something I don't remember saying? Nope. Nowhere did I say UAC queries you multiple times during installation. What I actually said was, "One of the biggest complaints about Windows Vista is its User Account Control (UAC) security feature, which 'sounds the alarm' and makes you identify yourself whenever you try to do normal, routine tasks such as installing an application." UAC does indeed pop up a dialog box and ask you for administrative credentials every time you install a program. Sure, it only does it once (well, if the program's installer is well written) but nonetheless, this is one of the most frequent complaints about Vista. I actually agree with the reader that UAC usually should not be turned off - my point was that many Vista users were doing that even though they shouldn't, because of what they perceived as the "in your face" nature of the feature. And it's important to remember that UAC actually is not a security boundary and wasn't designed to be one. For more on that, read Mark Russinovich's excellent article at

Barc noted a problem with Windows Media Center being unable to download the program guide until he disabled VIPRE and SPF. I can't say what his particular issue was since I haven't seen his configuration, but I can assure you that we run VIPRE on two different Media Center computers and have no problem downloading the Guide. I would check the firewall configuration settings. Some firewalls have to be manually configured to allow HTTP byte range requests in order for the Guide to download.

It was interesting to read all the responses from different readers, ranging from those who have computers that run with little protection at all to those who have multiple firewalls and security software suites "just in case." Security is not a "one size fits all" issue - which was part of the point of the original editorial.

Thanks to all of you who participated in the discussion on this topic.

'Til next week,
Deb Shinder, Editor

Follow Deb on Twitter

PS: Did you know this newsletter has a sister publication called Win7News? You can subscribe here, and tell your friends:

And for IT pros, there's our "big sister," WServer News, at

VIPRE now has a Fan Page on Facebook! Check it out:

Quotes of the Week

People in general are not interested in paying extra for increased safety. At the beginning, seat belts cost $200 and nobody bought them. - Gene Spafford

Security is always excessive until it's not enough. - Robbie Sinclair

The anguish of low quality lingers long after the sweetness of low cost is forgotten. - Unknown, from Peter Gregory, CISSP

If you think technology can solve your security problems, then you don't understand the problems and you don't understand the technology. - Bruce Schneier

Keep The Bad Guys Out With The Sunbelt Personal Firewall

Why do I need a firewall? Together with antivirus and antispyware, a firewall is a "must" to protect your computer. PC Magazine gave the Sunbelt Personal Firewall a "Very Good" rating with 4 Stars and a conclusion of "good protection". Check out the Reviews on the site and it will be clear why you need the Sunbelt Personal Firewall to protect your PC. One good example: Unlike the Windows XP and Vista Firewall, you can tell the Sunbelt Personal Firewall to look carefully at the data leaving your browser, so that sensitive information like your credit card numbers, email address, bank account, social security number and PIN code do not get stolen by hackers!

 Cool Tools

Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without


Search for a driver and you get a ton of Driver Software offers instead. But how do you know which one is good? Try Driver Genius 9.0. Free scan.

Replace the horrendous Word 2007 ribbon with familiar Office 2003 functionality. Try Classic Menu For Word 2007.

Backups? Why back up when you can sync? Simply replicate every piece of data to another drive in real-time. Set it and forget it.

Spotmau PowerSuite Professional 2008: Fantastic! All the tools necessary to fix most common computer problems. Clone and backup too!

PC Tune-Up: 4 Easy Steps That Eliminate Frustrating Slow Computer Problems:

Registry First Aid 7.0 - New Release Is Faster, Safer and Even More Effective

Improve your English writing skills with WhiteSmoke a smarter solution for high quality writing. Download the free trial version here.

Rip DVDs for your iPod/iPhone or Apple TV. Bundle includes video converter too! Try it free!

Unclog Vista! Advanced Vista Optimizer will tweak Vista for Max performance. Easy to use:

 News, Hints, Tips and Tricks

What the Most Common Error Messages Mean

You might go along for months with your computer running smoothly, but chances are now and then you'll see an error message of some sort. The problem is that it's not always completely clear what they mean, or what you need to do in order to address them. This article lists some of the most common error messages that occur in Windows and explains the ramifications and what you can do about them:

Survey Says: 40% of XP users don't want to upgrade

Many die-hard Windows XP users have become converts; attracted by Windows 7's shiny new interface and more importantly, by some of its new usability features. Even though they skipped Vista, they're now planning to take the plunge and move to Windows 7. However, a recent survey reported on the TopNews site indicated that 40% of XP users said they plan to continue using their current OS indefinitely and don't want to upgrade to Windows 7. Read about it here:

Windows Mobile 6.5 launch: here it is

Windows Mobile phone users have been waiting for it, and it's finally upon us: the release of WM 6.5, which introduces a more touch-friendly interface and provides an intermediate upgrade for those of us who are looking forward to the next full version, WM 7.0. Tuesday, October 6 is the day. Currently there are almost 28 million WM smart phones in use; a market analysis firm is predicting that by 2013, that market will more than double following the release of WM 7.0 and thanks to Microsoft's recent deal with phone maker LG. Read more here:

Web phone applications come under the gun

Using web applications to make phone calls can save you money, but popular web phone apps such as Google Voice and Skype are coming under the gun lately from several different quarters. Cell phone providers don't want you to use them on your phone, because it means you use fewer of their expensive minutes, and Apple, which exerts iron control over the apps you can install on your iPhone, incurred a lot of wrath when it rejected Google Voice. Now the FCC is looking at the app as a "potential network neutrality disruption," and Skype is under a court investigation. What does this mean for us? According to this article, it could result in web phone apps being regulated similarly to telephone carriers - and if that happens, you can bet it's the consumers who'll end up paying.

 How To: Using XP Features

How to show file extensions only for certain file types

By default, XP doesn't display the file extension for known file types. Most users have discovered how to change that so the extension is always displayed, but did you know that if you want, you can tell XP to display the extension only for particular file types of your choosing? Here's how:
  1. In Windows Explorer, click Tools and select Folder Options.
  2. Click the File Types tab.
  3. Select the file type for which you want the extension displayed.
  4. Click Advanced.
  5. Select "Always Show Extension."
  6. Click OK.

 XP Security News

Google Chrome Frame can present a security risk

Google has recently released something called Chrome Frame, which is a plug-in for Internet Explorer that is supposed to integrate the Chrome browser's open web technologies into IE, theoretically bringing users the best of both worlds. However, some analysts are concerned that it will take control away from users and may undermine security mechanisms.

Even the folks over at Mozilla are "uneasy" about it, fearing Google may next do the same for Firefox. Read more here:

 XP Question Corner

Will more RAM make my XP computer go faster?

I have an XP computer that I've had for almost five years. At first it was fast, but over time it has gotten slower and slower. It has 1 GB of RAM but it will take 2 GB. If I buy another GB of RAM, will that speed things up or is there something else that I need to do instead (or along with the RAM)? Thanks. - Roger L.

That's a difficult question to answer without seeing your system and knowing its history. More RAM is almost always better than less, but whether that's what's slowing down your system or not depends on many things. If you've installed new programs that need more RAM than the old ones did, or if you're running substantially more programs at a time than you did when the system was newer, the RAM might be the problem (or part of it). There are many other things that can slow down a computer over time: a fragmented hard disk and spyware are too very common ones. So before I shelled out the money for RAM, I'd first make sure my disk(s) are defragged, and run a good anti-malware program to get rid of any spyware that might be on the system.

You can find out whether you need more RAM by right clicking the taskbar and opening Task Manager, then taking a look at the Performance tab. If the Total Commit Charge number is higher than Total Physical Memory, that means Windows is having to swap out data from fast RAM to the page file or virtual memory, which is on the slower hard disk, and that can slow down your system. In this case, adding RAM should definitely help.

 XP Configuration and Troubleshooting

How to configure IE browser settings after removing malware

If you're still using IE6 on XP and you use Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT) to scan for malware, the tool may reset your Internet Explorer settings to point to a Microsoft web site. To automatically reset your home page and search option, you can use the "Fix It" tool in KB article 895339 at

SSL connection fails when using IE 6 or 7 on XP to connect to an HTTPS web site

This KB article's title would lead you to think it only applies to Windows Server 2003, but the same problem can occur with XP running IE 6 or 7. When the SSL connection fails, you won't be able to access the web site with IE - but the connection can be made successfully with Firefox. There is a hotfix that you can install to correct the problem. Find out more, including how to get it, in KB article 955807 at

 Fav Links

This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff

Disclaimer: WXPNews does not assume and cannot be responsible for any liability related to you clicking any of these linked Web sites.

 Product of the Week

ImTOO HD Video Converter: The Only HD Video Converter You'll Ever Need!

ImTOO HD Video Converter brings you deluxe High-Definition video enjoyment. It has all the great functions of Standard-Definition and High-Definition video conversion from one to another, together with offering the functions of audio conversion from video/audio to audio, and picture conversion from video to picture and vice versa. The encoding and decoding of many High-Definition video formats are supported to allow you to enjoy High-Definition video on iPhone, iPod, Apple TV, XboX, PS3, etc. WXPNews readers can download the free evaluation here.

 About WXPnews

What Our Lawyers Make Us Say
These documents are provided for informational purposes only. The information contained in this document represents the current view of Sunbelt Software on the issues discussed as of the date of publication. Because Sunbelt must respond to changes in market conditions, it should not be interpreted to be a commitment on the part of Sunbelt and Sunbelt cannot guarantee the accuracy of any information presented after the date of publication.


This newsletter and website and may contain links to other websites with whom we have a business relationship. Sunbelt Software does not review or screen these sites, and we are not responsible or liable for their privacy or data security practices, or the content of these sites. Additionally, if you register with any of these sites, any information that you provide in the process of registration, such as your email address, credit card number or other personally identifiable information, will be transferred to these sites. For these reasons, you should be careful to review any privacy and data security policies posted on any of these sites before providing information to them.

The user assumes the entire risk as to the accuracy and the use of this document. This document may be copied and distributed subject to the following conditions: 1) All text must be copied without modification and all pages must be included; 2) All copies must contain Sunbelt's copyright notice and any other notices provided therein; and 3) This document may not be distributed for profit. All trademarks acknowledged. Copyright Sunbelt Software, Inc. 1996-2009.

WXPnews Archives
Looking for a past issue? Missing an issue? Accidently deleted an issue? Trying to find that article that pointed you to that cool site? All our newsletters are archived and are searchable:

About Your Subscription to WXPnews
This is a posting from WXPnews. You are subscribed as cpedley.killcomputer@blogger.com.
To manage your profile, please visit our site by clicking on the following link:

If you have feedback or wish to write to the editor, write to us at feedback@wxpnews.com

Sunbelt Software
33 North Garden Avenue
Clearwater, Florida USA 33755

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for understanding that we need to prevent the nasties.

Terms of Use

Personal & Educational Use Only This blog consists mainly of FREE newsletters from computer web gurus that I receive. I thought you might like to see them all in one place than try to discover them on your own. A moderate amount of editing may be done to eliminate unrelated repetitious ads or unnecessary text which bloat the post. However I have given the authors full credit and will not remove their site links because you deserve to see where it comes from and they deserve to get credit for what they have written. Your use of this site is simply for educational purposes. For more computer-related help go to: CPEDLEY.COM for free software, advice and tips on low cost products which are very helpful. If you want to contact the editor, please go CPEDLEY.COM and check the Contact page for email address.