Recent Windows Update Arouses Security Controversy

Dennis Faas's picture

A prominent security firm has taken a stand against Microsoft's decision to offer its free antivirus software, Microsoft Security Essentials, as part of its recent Windows Update. A member of Trend Micro's management team not long ago referred to the move as one "commercializing Windows Update".

Last week Microsoft began offering U.S. Windows users its free antivirus program, Microsoft Security Essentials, through the Windows operating system's built-in update service. The offering works like this: if Windows detects that a user is not using any antivirus software, the option of upgrading to Security Essentials becomes available via the Optional section of Microsoft Update.

Critics Call Move Anti-Competitive

Microsoft was quick to point out that Windows Update wasn't automatically installing Security Essentials on these PCs; in fact, it says Security Essentials isn't even being offered via Windows Update, but instead through the Microsoft Update service (which also offers important updates for Microsoft software like Office and Windows Media Player).

Critics, including Trend Micro general manager of consumer and small business sales Carol Carpenter, say the distinction is barely recognizable since Microsoft has so closely interwoven Microsoft Update and Windows Update. Many PCs, including those running Vista and Windows 7, are configured to use Microsoft Update by default.

"Commercializing Windows Update to distribute other software applications raises significant questions about unfair competition," said Carpenter. "Windows Update is a de facto extension of Windows, so to begin delivering software tied to updates has us concerned... Windows Update is not a choice for users, and we believe it should not be used this way." (Source:

Microsoft: Just Trying to Help Out

Responding to this, Microsoft said it was merely offering a convenient way for consumers to protect themselves against malware and other web-based threats to their PCs. "We are always looking for the most effective and efficient ways to ensure our customers are protected against viruses, spyware and other malicious threats," said Microsoft Security Essentials director of marketing, Jeff Smith.

"By offering Security Essentials as an optional download for PCs that are unprotected, we make it easy for those who want and know they need protection, but for whatever reason have not gotten around to installing it." (Source:

But the move could have a considerable impact on security vendors like Trend Micro, companies that don't have their very own operating systems within which to advertise their products. "We welcome competition on a level playing field," said Carpenter. "What concerns us is a vendor using market leverage to drive its solution in some unfair way."

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