Version 4.0 of Microsoft Security Essentials released
Version 4.0 of Microsoft's Security Essentials (MSE) anti-malware and anti-virus software for Windows has been released. Previously only available as a beta, the new version of the program looks very similar to the previous 2.x branch; most of the cosmetic changes are to be found only under the Settings tab.
According to the company, improvements in MSE 4.0 include reduced system requirements and faster removal of malware, as well as better detection and cleanup capabilities for finding and removing security threats. However, the software still seems to lack a behavioural recognition feature.
MSE continues to sort threats into four risk levels. Files that are classified as posing a "severe" or "high" risk will be pushed into quarantine without warning – this now happens considerably faster than in the previous version. Additionally, users can choose how MSE will handle files that are considered a "medium" or "low" level threat (Settings ➤ Default actions).
The scanner's real-time protection has been cut back from five options to just one: previously, scan modules such as the one for checking downloads could be disabled individually. Now, the only choice is to completely disable real-time protection. Another change is that files will automatically be deleted from quarantine after three months. While this option did exist before, it used to be disabled by default.
Microsoft's feedback mechanism is now called "MAPS" instead of "SpyNet" – MAPS is an acronym for "Microsoft Active Protection Service". The default continues to be the "Basic membership" plan that will send basic information on any detected malware to Microsoft. As in MSE 2.0, users can completely opt out of MAPS or choose to become "Advanced members", which enables MSE to pass on to Microsoft considerably more detailed information about any unknown programs that are found.
Microsoft Security Essentials 4.0 requires Windows 7, Vista (SP1 or SP2) or Windows XP Service Pack 3, and is available to download free of charge – even for small businesses with up to 10 employees. During installation, the application will check if the user's Windows licence is genuine. On PCs that don't have the virus scanner installed, Windows Update will offer to install Microsoft Security Essentials 4 as an optional update.