Is Windows Security good enough to foil the bad guys? (safety)

Windows Security is free and comes as part of Windows. It is a combination of rules-based and real-time cloud-based anti-virus/malware detectors. Can it keep up with the bad guys?

First, hats off to Microsoft for including it for free and covering the substantial costs of keeping it up to date.

 It includes (from the Microsoft Website):

  • Virus & threat protection – Monitor threats to your device, run scans, and get updates to help detect the latest threats. Works online (gets real-time cloud definitions) and offline (uses regularly updated signature files).
  • Account protection – Access sign-in options and account settings, including Windows Hello and dynamic lock.
  • Firewall & network protection – Manage firewall settings and monitor what’s happening with your networks and internet connections.
  • App & browser control – Update settings for Microsoft Defender SmartScreen to help protect your device against potentially dangerous apps, files, sites, and downloads. You’ll have exploit protection, and you can customise protection settings for your devices.
  • Device security – Review built-in security options to help protect your device from attacks by malicious software.
  • Device performance & health – View status info about your device’s performance health, and keep your device clean and up to date with the latest version of Windows.
  • Family options – Keep track of your kids’ online activity and the devices in your household.

But let’s be clear – Windows Security (formerly Windows Defender) is not Microsoft Defender  (formerly Windows Defender), a pay-for product with extra features for Windows and Android.

OK, how good is it?

  • Anti-virus/Malware detection rates are reasonable but can be behind third-party competitors. For example, Nortons, Trend Micro, and Malwarebytes have higher real-time detection rates.
  • Content filters are for the Microsoft Edge browser only.
  • PC system health report is basic (no performance-boosting or system cleanup).
  • Lacks additional tools like a VPN, password manager, dark web monitoring, and identity theft protection.
  • It is the prime target for hackers who often write viruses to defeat and disable.

What is missing from Window Security in comparison to paid products?

Using Norton and Trend Micro’s top bundles as a guide:

  • A virtual private network (VPN). I prefer a paid, dedicated VPN like Private Internet Access as it covers the world, supports Torrents, and has a no-logs policy.
  • Identity theft protection.
  • Dark web monitoring.
  • Anti-theft protection.
  • Webcam/microphone protection.
  • System optimisation tools.
  • Password manager. I prefer to use LastPass for Families as it works on all my devices and can share passwords with the family.
  • Ransomware protection and cloud storage.
  • And more…

Your paid options

Trend Micro and Norton. Sure there are others but these are the ones we are familiar with and trust.

We recently reviewed Trend Micro’s top package Trend Micro Device Security Ultimate – excellent broad-spectrum protection (website here), which is the ‘Swiss Army Knife’ approach. We have only been using it for a month, but its unique hardware-based Home Network Security is extremely good. It costs $37.40 each for ten devices for two years – very cost-effective. If you don’t need everything, then Trend Micro Security Basic is good value, covering six devices for two years for <$15 each.

We have not reviewed Norton for some time (mainly because we try not to review software), but Norton 360 Advanced looks pretty good, and previous tests show it has little system performance impact.

You can often find deals at Harvey Norman or online.

CyberShack’s view – Windows Security won’t foil the bad guys.

Windows Security does a respectable job of anti-virus/malware. It does not provide the level of security of other leading antivirus software providers, so you need to be diligent. But hey, it is free.

We believe you need additional protection layers to beat the bad guys. Things like additional firewall defence, protection against phishing and ransomware, scanning of incoming e-mails, and more comprehensive, customisable security settings. VPN, Password managers, and ID Theft protections are optional.
Summary: It is the minimum protection but you need more.