Microsoft Takes Two Baby Steps Toward Enterprise Security

Last week, Microsoft released two security-oriented tools that, at first blush, might seem like perfect enhancements to the company's enterprise software arsenal. There's just one problem: The tools--a beta version of Microsoft's upcoming Windows AntiSpyware and the first release of its monthly Malicious Software Removal Tool--are more suitable for individuals and small business than for midsized and large businesses. That doesn't render the new tools useless, of course, but it does make them somewhat less appealing for the short term.

From a business standpoint, both tools come amidst an unparalleled upswing in Microsoft's consumer offerings. Although neither Windows AntiSpyware nor the Malicious Software Removal Tool rivals Windows Media Center or Windows Media Player (WMP) 10 on the consumer excitement scale, both closely mirror the security promise of Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2), which was widely advertised to consumers. Does that mean these consumer-oriented security tools can't also be valuable to an enterprise?

In the case of Windows AntiSpyware, yeah, it pretty much does. The initial beta release of Windows AntiSpyware, like its GIANT Company Software predecessor, is aimed quite squarely at consumers--not businesses. I recently spoke with Paul Brian, director of product management for Microsoft's Security Business and Technology Unit, AntiSpyware, and he told me that this consumer focus is deliberate, but that an enterprise version will follow. "We definitely see that spyware is a problem for the enterprise, and we'll evolve \[a product\] on that front," he said. "But we haven't finalized any plans for how and when we'll do that."

Based on my previous conversation with GIANT Company Software co-founder Andrew Newman, who is now working on Windows AntiSpyware in an engineering unit at Microsoft, an enterprise product could come sooner than you think. That's because GIANT was on the cusp of beta-testing a version of its antispyware package aimed at businesses, which was to be more easily deployable and centrally managed. My expectation is that Microsoft will beta test a similar package by year's end, though Brian wouldn't corroborate that.

The rush to get Windows AntiSpyware into consumers' hands meant that the public beta hasn't changed much since the previous GIANT version of the software. "We kept the same users interface in order to get it out quickly," Brian told me, noting that Microsoft was able to ship the beta just 21 days after its acquisition of GIANT Company Software. Now that the package is out publicly, Microsoft will use user feedback to improve the application and fix things that GIANT Company Software didn't have the resources to attack, such as localization and accessibility features. "We definitely have a lot of work to do," Brian noted.

Beyond that, Brian didn't have a lot of answers. The schedule for Windows AntiSpyware and the eventual enterprise version are unknown. Licensing and pricing? Not sure yet. Such is life on the beta edge.

Like Windows AntiSpyware, the Malicious Software Removal Tool isn't particularly well-suited for the enterprise, but is instead aimed at individuals. That doesn't mean businesses shouldn't at least take a look at it--the tool does scan for and remove some of the more high-profile Windows viruses and worms that have cropped up over the past few years. The Microsoft article "Deployment of the Microsoft Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool in an enterprise environment" ( ) provides information about deploying malware removal via Microsoft Systems Management Server (SMS) or Group Policy.

But like all poorly written software, the malware removal tool can be used only by someone logged on as an administrator, and it can't be used to scan other machines in a network. Presumably, more powerful and useful tools are on the way.

Microsoft Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool

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