Microsoft Defender Antivirus isn’t well respected when it comes to security, but it’s been around for a long time. First released as Windows Defender in 2006 and later renamed Microsoft Defender, it has been included in all versions of Windows since Vista and is now only part of a set of free, built-in security tools.
For example, there is real-time, on-demand malware protection. Automatic detection and blocking of known malicious URLs and files. A simple firewall. And very sophisticated low-level exploit protection that makes it much harder for malware to attack your system.
Microsoft’s parental controls are also smarter than before, with features like content filtering for Microsoft Edge, the ability to control how much time your kids can spend on their devices, and the ability to monitor all of your devices. family from one place.
Can You Really Rely On Microsoft Defender Antivirus Only? Let’s see.
One of the main advantages of Microsoft Defender Antivirus is that it is built into Windows, no installation required, no hassle, very little chance of it conflicting with anything else – it just works.
A big advantage of this simplicity is that most users never see Defender’s interface beyond the occasional alert. Smart defaults keep you safe right away, automatic download and run scanning protects you from most threats, and inactive and scheduled scans aim to detect everything else.
If you want to take a look, however, type Windows in the search box, choose Windows Security, and browse through what’s on offer.
As with many other security apps, the main dashboard displays your security status, while a sidebar gives you access to various functions: antivirus, account protection (how you log in), firewall and protection. network, URL and malware blocking, parental controls and Suite.
It is not always intuitive. While many antivirus apps have a Scan button on the dashboard, for example, Defender is two clicks down from the Scan Options panel.
Despite these initial hassles, it doesn’t take long to figure out where everything is, and overall Microsoft Defender Antivirus isn’t difficult to use.
Microsoft Defender offers the full range of scan options, and more: a quick scan, a full system scan, a custom scan to check the files and folders you need, even a startup scan that runs before Windows loads completely, to remove the most stubborn threats.
The quick scans took about a minute on our test PC, but we couldn’t get a consistent time for the other scans. Defender focuses more on reducing its impact on the system rather than speeding up scan times. But does it work? It’s unclear.
AV-Comparative’s October 2021 performance test says no, placing Microsoft Defender in last place in a pack of 17.
AV-Test’s Windows testing has found speed issues in the past, but most of them are gone, and Defender now generally gets the best possible speed rating of 6/6 in most AV gears. -Test.
Protection is what really matters with any antivirus. Microsoft Defender has had mixed results from independent labs in the past, but has improved in recent years and now outperforms many commercial competitors.
AV-Comparatives’ real-world protection test of July-October 2021 placed Microsoft in eighth place (along with Bitdefender and VIPRE) out of 17, for example, with a protection index of 99.7%. Okay, it’s not state of the art – Trend Micro, Panda, and Norton have all blocked 100% of threats – but you can’t really complain about an antivirus that does “only” as well as Bitdefender (especially when it’s free.)
AV-Test’s Windows Consumer Reports gave Defender a maximum of 6/6 points for protection, speed, and usability in all but one of its tests in the past year (it fell to 5.5 / 6 for a usability score.) Only Avast and Norton scored higher.
SE-Labs’ July-September 2021 Home Malware Protection Report tells a similar story, with Microsoft Defender ranking second out of nine for its Total Accuracy rating.
Our own tests have shown capable file detection, but little behavioral monitoring.
For example, a group of tests involves the use of trusted Windows applications to download malicious files, a common script trick. Bitdefender and Kaspersky realized there was a purely behavioral issue and killed the process before it could download the file. Microsoft Defender accepted the behavior, allowed the download, and only sounded the alarm when it realized the file was malicious. He was still protecting us this time, but maybe he wouldn’t have if the threat was brand new.
We pitted Microsoft Defender against our custom ransomware, but it also failed, allowing it to encrypt thousands of test files.
Fortunately, Defender has a second layer of protection in its Controlled Folders feature (Security Center> Virus and Threat Protection> Manage Ransomware Protection.) Enable this option and it automatically prevents unauthorized applications from accessing to key document folders (Documents, Pictures, Videos, Music, more) and you can easily add more.
We enabled the watched folders, added our test folder to the list, and ran the ransomware simulator again. This time Defender displayed an alert when our ransomware attempted to access the folder and was unable to encrypt any documents.
It’s not exactly sophisticated. Watched Folders simply block anything it doesn’t recognize, and previously we’ve found some legitimate programs to refuse to run until we manually add them to an exceptions list.
Avast’s ransomware shield is smarter, more like a firewall; when it detects unauthorized access to a folder, it alerts you, but also asks if the process is legitimate. Confirm it, Ransomware Shield adds the app to your exceptions list itself and there is nothing else you need to do.
The files scanned could be better, then, but they did their basic job of protecting us from a threat the antivirus engine missed.
We’re not going to discuss it in depth here, but Windows OneDrive integration helps a bit too. The standard 5GB of free online storage space isn’t much, but it’s free, it’s 5GB more than what you’ll get with most security apps, and it might help protect you. your most important data against attacks.
Windows security doesn’t end with antivirus, and there are several other features to explore.
At the top of the list is probably the firewall. It does a good job of protecting you from inbound network attacks, but is less concerned with controlling outbound access; if an application can run as an administrator, it can customize the firewall by adding its own rules.
Defender’s reputation-based SmartScreen protection allows it to block access to malicious websites, files and applications. Its URL filtering is consistently less accurate than the competition in our tests, and worst of all, it only works with Microsoft Edge. SmartScreen’s file and download checks, however, work system-wide and provide a useful additional layer of protection.
Windows has a very low-level exploit and device security feature set, primarily focused on how the operating system manages memory. They are important, but best left on their own, even by expert users – playing around with CFG, DEP, ASLR, and memory integrity settings can in some situations break your PC to the point that it won’t even start. not.
Finally, there’s the Family Options page, a collection of parental control features.
The good thing: You have several options, including the ability to filter websites by content, control when your kids can use their devices and which apps they can buy, and then get regular activity reports on what. they did.
The bad: these are mostly very basic, and the Windows browser options are Edge only. Bypassing them is as easy as downloading Chrome.
You can install a free Microsoft Family Safety app on Android and iOS, to help monitor screen time, web usage, and app usage on other platforms. It only covers the basics, but it’s always a welcome addition to the package, and if you’re looking for parental controls, it’s worth checking out.
Microsoft Defender isn’t as feature rich as the best antiviruses, but it’s more accurate than some big-name commercial products and is much less likely to cause issues with your other apps. If simplicity (or price) is high on your priority list, this is a reasonable choice.
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