Windows 8 to offer built-in malware protection

The new OS will include an updated version of Windows Defender designed to provide more robust protection and better security at the boot level.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read

Microsoft's Michael Angiulo (left) and Steven Sinofsky show off Windows 8 at the company's Build conference this week.
Microsoft's Michael Angiulo (left) and Steven Sinofsky show off Windows 8 at the company's Build conference on September 13. Microsoft

Microsoft is including a beefier version of its malware protection in Windows 8.

The company is tweaking its Windows Defender tool, which has been part of the last few versions of Windows, by essentially adding some of the more robust features from its free Security Essentials product. Launched in 2009, Security Essentials has garnered generally positive reviews but requires a separate download, while the built-in Windows Defender has lacked certain key elements as a defense against malware.

At a demo of Windows 8's security at Microsoft's Build conference on Tuesday posted by The Register, Steven Sinofsky, president of the Windows and Windows Live division, said that "we've taken Defender, and we've actually built a whole new range of protection, all the way up through anti-malware, antivirus, all that is built into Defender."

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Beyond strengthening Defender, Microsoft is working to improve security from the boot level.

The demo at Build revealed a new feature called Secured Boot. Michael Angiulo, corporate vice president of Windows Planning and Ecosystem, showed off the feature by trying to boot up a computer with an infected USB stick. Instead of loading Windows, the computer detected the malware, stopped the boot process, and displayed a warning message that the system had been compromised.

Depending on the effectiveness of the new Defender and the other security measures, the news could be good for Windows 8 users but not so good for third-party antivirus vendors, according to Sophos consultant Graham Cluley. In a blog post yesterday, Cluley acknowledged that anything encouraging people to protect their PCs with the latest antivirus software is a plus, especially since too many home computers are still being assimilated into botnets.

But if PC owners have effective, built-in malware protection, will they still shell out their hard-earned dough for security software from Symantec, McAfee, and others? If not, Cluley doesn't sound like he'd be too sorry.

"Frankly, it's their own fault," he said in his blog. "The two big security hippopotamuses have had years of opportunity to gobble up the end-user market, and yet still millions of home users were infected by malware, spyware and pop-ups each year."

Cluley believes that third-party vendors may react to the new security in Windows 8 by cutting the prices on their own products or even accusing Microsoft of "anti-competitive practices."