Anti-Spyware Rival Slams Microsoft's Windows Defender, Vista

Webroot says Windows Defender fails to block many of the security threats that are roaming around the Internet. A Microsoft security rival on Thursday blasted the anti-spyware technology that the Redmond, Wash., developer will include with Windows Vista as "ineffective," "slow," and "weak." "We applaud Microsoft for the substantive improvements in Vista," says Gerhard Eschelbeck, […]

Webroot says Windows Defender fails to block many of the security threats that are roaming around the Internet.

A Microsoft security rival on Thursday blasted the anti-spyware technology that the Redmond, Wash., developer will include with Windows Vista as "ineffective," "slow," and "weak."

"We applaud Microsoft for the substantive improvements in Vista," says Gerhard Eschelbeck, the chief technology officer of Webroot Software Inc. "However, we want to make sure that users understand the Vista operating system's limitations, and caution them that Microsoft's default malware blocking application and anti-virus programs may not fully protect them."

Eschelbeck's Boulder, Colo.-based employer is best known for its Spy Sweeper anti-spyware line, which late last year was updated with anti-virus scanning capabilities. Spy Sweeper competes with the for-free Windows Defender, Microsoft's anti-spyware add-on to Windows XP that is also integrated with Windows Vista, the next-generation operating system that debuts in retail next Tuesday, Jan. 30.

"If you look at the [Defender] data points, they speak for themselves," says Eschelbeck. "Defender didn't block 84% of the tested malware. That's not the kind of performance users are hoping for." Eschelbeck said that his firm's research team tested Defender against a suite of Trojan horses, adware, keyloggers, system monitors, and other unwanted programs, all of which were gathered from in-the-wild threats. Webroot's own Spy Sweeper blocked 100% of the threats.

Eschelbeck also slammed Windows Defender, and by connection, Vista's security, for infrequent updates. Microsoft currently issues spyware definition updates every seven to 10 days, he said. Webroot, meanwhile, identifies approximately 3,000 new traces of spyware every month. "Users can't wait for a week or so to have their anti-spyware signatures updated," says Eschelbeck.

Windows Vista also lacks built-in anti-virus protection, Eschelbeck continued. Windows Live OneCare, Microsoft's suite of security services that adds anti-virus scanning, backup, and tune-up tools, retails for $49.95 for a one-year, three-PC subscription. Webroot added anti-virus scanning to Spy Sweeper in late October, 2006, after licensing technology from Spanish security vendor Sophos. Spy Sweeper with AntiVirus costs $39.95 for a one-year license for one PC, $49.95 for three machines.

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Microsoft, Webroot, Windows Defender, Windows Vista, Windows Live OneCare, Anti-Spyware