Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) 2.0 was quietly released last week with nary a press release or blog entry from the Redmond-based software giant. Free for home users or very small businesses of 10 workstations or less, the release is a testament of the software's technical capability. News of MSE's release spread quickly, with a robust list of tech sites quickly reporting its availability.
The beta of MSE 2.0 was first announced in July this year by Brandon LeBlanc, Microsoft's Windows communications manager, in a blog entry on the official Windows Blog. LeBlanc wrote that the new engine in MSE 2.0 "offers enhanced detection and cleanup capabilities with better performance."
This new version of MSE incorporates a new network inspection capability to detect threats in incoming network traffic, leveraging on the Windows Filtering Platform to examine data packets-be them filtered or allowed in by the Windows Firewall. Windows Filtering Platform is found only in Windows Vista and Windows 7, so earlier versions of Windows, such as XP, will not benefit from this capability.
According to a post on Ars Technica, MSE 2.0 also integrates with Microsoft's Internet Explorer for better protection against Web-based threats to stop malicious scripts from running. In comparison, MSE 1.0 only detected such scripts after they were already written to IE's cache, which "could be too late" observed blogger Emil Protalinski.
It was only in October of this year that MSE became free for small businesses of up to 10 workstations, a move that caused some trepidation among existing security vendors. Other observers have rightly pointed out that limiting deployments of MSE to just 10 nodes in businesses means that it is hardly useful for the majority of small- and mid-sized businesses out there. For businesses thinking of eventually deploying Microsoft's enterprise-sized Forefront Endpoint Protection 2010, the ability to test out an essentially free trial of MSE without a time limit would probably come in useful.
I have always advocated a centralized deployment and management paradigm to malware protection on this blog, which could either be made up of traditional anti-virus defenses or whitelisting solutions. For businesses considering the former, Forefront Endpoint Protection would certainly make a more robust solution from a threat management point of view.
For now, those interested in giving Microsoft Security Essentials a spin can download it from the Microsoft Download Center page here. Existing users should see their MSE deployment automatically updated by now, though a restart is probably required to start up MSE 2.0.