Microsoft to release free security software to tackle growing malware threat

19 Nov 2008

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Microsoft is planning to release free security software for download from the internet to address the growing market of new PC form factors like netbooks, but also what it sees as a worrying increase in malware coming from developing nations.

Code-named ‘Morro’, this streamlined solution will be available in the second-half of 2009, and will provide comprehensive protection from malware, including viruses, spyware, rootkits and trojans.

Available for free, it will be architected for a smaller footprint that will use fewer computing resources, making it ideal for low-bandwidth scenarios or less powerful PCs.

The company has also announced that it will discontinue retail sales of its Windows Live OneCare subscription service from 30 June next.

“Customers around the world have told us that they need comprehensive, ongoing protection from new and existing threats, and we take that concern seriously,” said Amy Barzdukas, senior director of product management for the Online Services and Windows Division at Microsoft.

“This new, no-cost offering will give us the ability to protect an even greater number of consumers, especially in markets where the growth of new PC purchases is outpaced only by the growth of malware.”

Morro will take advantage of the same core anti-malware technology that fuels the company’s current line of security products, which have received the VB100 award from Virus Bulletin, Checkmark Certification from West Coast Labs and certification from the International Computer Security Association Labs.

The new solution will deliver the same core protection against malware as that offered through Microsoft’s enterprise solutions, but will not include many of the additional non-security features found in many consumer security suites.

Windows Live OneCare, one of the first all-in-one suites to be launched in the consumer market, includes a number of non-security features, such as printer sharing and automated PC tune-up.

By shifting to focus on the core anti-malware features that most consumers still don’t keep up to date, the company said Morro will be able to provide the essential protections that consumers need without overusing system resources, and will help more consumers to have better protection against online threats.

“Because uptake of standard anti-malware is low around the world, particularly in developing nations, the availability of basic protection for anyone who wants it is all the more important,” said Roger Kay, founder and president of Endpoint Technologies Associates.

“By offering such basic protection at no charge to the consumer, Microsoft is promoting a safer environment for PCs, service providers and e-commerce itself, since it is through unprotected PCs that the worst threats are introduced to the system as a whole.”

Morro will be available as a standalone download and will offer malware protection for the Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 operating systems.

By John Kennedy

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com