Microsoft today published a blog post in which it emphasized its commitment to protecting consumer and business customers from malware with its various solutions. The company also noted its real-time antimalware products are installed on over 150 million computers worldwide, and that their quality has improved significantly over the last two years.
You might be wondering why the Microsoft Malware Protection Center (MMPC) chose to highlight this today. The post appears to be a response to a PC Pro story titled “Microsoft: Security Essentials is designed to be bottom of the antivirus rankings” and published on September 25 following an interview with Holly Stewart, senior program manager of the MMPC.
Here’s the article’s introduction: “Microsoft has admitted Windows users should install antivirus above and beyond its own Security Essentials, describing its protection as merely a ‘baseline’ that will ‘always be on the bottom’ of antivirus software rankings.” While the second part of the sentence is factual, the first one is a stretch.
Here are the actual quotes, all buried at the bottom of PC Pro’s article:
“We’re providing all of that data and information to our partners so they can do at least as well as we are. The natural progression is that we will always be on the bottom of these tests. And honestly, if we are doing our job correctly, that’s what will happen.”
“The more we can help them [antivirus firms] differentiate themselves and give customers a good reason to pay for their products we know that that diversity is going to make it harder for the people who are our real competitors – the bad guys who are out there.”
“Baseline does not equal bad. We provide a high-quality, high-performing service to our customers and if they choose not to buy [antivirus] on Windows 8… we want to get those people protected.”
Many people didn’t read through the whole article and simply picked up on the general gist. In fact, the interview was reported by other publications the week it was published, and resurfaced again this week.
This is likely why Microsoft today released a clearer overview of what its security team has achieved in the past year:
- Created new methods to identify emerging threats earlier and defend against them faster. Although Microsoft says around 80 percent of the malware its customers encounter are known or proactively blocked threats, new threats emerge every day which it is tackling with early warning telemetry and faster signature delivery systems.
- Focused resources (research and response efforts) on activities that directly contribute to customer protection. Millions of its customers have voluntarily opted in to let their computers share telemetry data on encountered threats, helping Microsoft identify and prioritize new malware files.
- Share telemetry and samples with the industry to collectively make everyone stronger against their true adversaries – the malware writers. Microsoft says its commitment to collaboration and sharing programs for antivirus partners and testers is stronger than ever, and addresses real world threats that impact all customers.
These points lead Microsoft to conclude the following:
The end result is that, over the past year, our investments have increased the protection quality we deliver to our customers. As of the middle of 2013, we’ve increased our protection quality – that means less incorrect detections and less misses – by a significant rate since we first started measuring these metrics in the last quarter of 2011.
In short, Microsoft explained why its security strategy is working and why “baseline” probably isn’t the best term to use, without actually referring to the interview in question. We’re not sure this is the best way to go about it: we would probably have said Microsoft’s security solutions are raising the bar across the industry by setting a standard that covers threats in the wild, while leaving the business of antivirus to its partners.
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