Security Essentials: Effectiveness Dropping Fast

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft Security Essentials is a free antivirus software tool, which makes it a tempting download for many Internet users. However, a new report suggests it will protect computers only from two in every three or so worm, virus, or Trojan horse threats.

An independent computer security lab based in Germany recently carried out tests of Security Essentials' effectiveness in detecting and removing security threats affecting Microsoft's popular Windows 7 operating system (OS).

The lab is affiliated with AV-Test, an independent security institute that performs tests of security products every two months and makes its findings available to the public. (Source:

Security Essentials Loses AV-Test Certificate

The lab found that during the period September to October 2012, the Security Essentials software spotted just 64 per cent of a test suite of viruses, worms, and Trojan horses it encountered.

That detection rate represented a five per cent decline in Security Essentials' overall effectiveness, compared with the previous two-month testing period.

For reference, AV-Test says other security products on average detected 89 per cent of the security test-suite threats. (Source:

Although the German lab found that Security Essentials detected 90 per cent of malware threats, that total was still seven per cent lower than the industry average.

These findings resulted in AV-Test revoking Security Essentials' AV-Test certification.

Of the 24 Windows 7 security products that AV-Test tested this October, Security Essentials was the only product to receive a failing grade. (Source:

Microsoft's Market Share to Shrink?

AV-Test's findings could have a huge impact on the security software market. At the present time, Microsoft controls more than one quarter of the entire antivirus market, with Symantec in second place with 16 per cent market share.

Microsoft first released Security Essentials back in 2009. It is free to download for home users and small businesses running the software on ten computers or less.

Security Essentials replaced Microsoft's Live OneCare security software, which was not free and which proved unpopular with home and business users alike.

Security Essentials is also known as Windows Defender when installed on Windows 8 PCs. Microsoft says that Windows 8 computers will automatically enable the security software if no other antivirus product is detected on the computer system.

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