Free AV from Microsoft: It's about time

If you are running Windows PCs somewhere on your campus, then you are probably also running antivirus. Flame-baiting discussions of Windows security aside, it's simply a necessity.

If you are running Windows PCs somewhere on your campus, then you are probably also running antivirus. Flame-baiting discussions of Windows security aside, it's simply a necessity. Being a big fan of free stuff, I run Clamwin (FOSS antivirus) and Windows Defender (free anti-malware from Microsoft) on all of our Windows machines and this seems to be a fairly effective combination. The addition of Astaro gateway security devices with built-in anti-malware has made our onsite machines fairly resistant to infection.

To be honest, I find the standard suites from McAfee and Norton to be incredibly intrusive and, obviously, in an academic setting (even with academic licenses), quite expensive. Recent information surrounding Microsoft's plans to release free, "web-based" antivirus (code-named Morro) is welcome news.

The company is taking an approach closer to Panda's cloud-based anti-malware than tradition AV vendors. As PC World describes,

Microsoft is claiming that "Morro" will be more than just a dedicated antivirus product. Microsoft is wrapping the term "real-time anti-malware" around the service. Morro will work by routing all of a users Internet traffic to a Microsoft datacenter, where the Morro application will process the traffic and identify and block malware in real-time, by examining all of the rerouted traffic.

While it's hard to say what the performance penalty will be for this approach, it certainly gets past user intervention and the resulting unpatched systems that are the bane of many administrators' existence. This is especially valuable for the increasing number of systems going home with students and staff where gateway antivirus rarely exists and fully-protected systems are a must before they come back on campus.

We'll see how this plays out, but for now I say, "It's about time, Microsoft!"

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