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Free Security Tools from Microsoft
Microsoft does not only provide free anti-virus and anti-spyware for end-users, but there are plenty of useful and free security tools from Microsoft. These include Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer, Microsoft Security Assessment Tool, Extended Security Update Inventory Tool, Microsoft Update, Account Lockout and Management Tools, Port Reporter, File Checksum Integrity Verifier, Malicious Software Removal Tool, Windows Live OneCare Safety Scanner, Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET), Windows SteadyState, SubInACL, Bitlocker and Bitlocker to Go and many others. Microsoft also provides free SysInternals utilities, Process Explorer, Autoruns, etc.
In this article, we'll discuss two of the free Microsoft security downloads: Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET) and Microsoft Security Essentials. Note that the screenshot of Microsoft Security Essentials is the beta edition.
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Microsoft Security Essentials
One of the basics for protecting Windows and your data is preventing infections from viruses, worms, Trojans, rootkits, spyware, adware, malware and other potentially unwanted software. The free anti-virus from Microsoft is called Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE), which provides real-time protection against any type of malicious software. An on-demand scanner, free detection updates and free support are also provided to users with a genuine copy of Windows.
Microsoft Security Essentials is proven to be one of the most effective anti-virus solutions because it has undergone rigorous testing by many experts and independent anti-virus testing laboratories:
- AV-Comparatives - This non-profit organization has tested Microsoft Security Essentials since last year, 2009. To-date, Microsoft continues to receive an advanced+ and advanced ratings in the AV-Comparatives' Proactive detection for new and known malware. AV-Comparatives' also tested the ability of Microsoft Security Essentials for removing malware on infected PCs. MSE is one of the 6 anti-virus programs, out of 16 that received an advanced + rating, the highest rating level by the testing labs.
- Virus Bulletin - Did you know that Microsoft Security Essentials outdoes the antivirus solutions by Trend Micro and McAfee? Check out the August 2010 news from Virus Bulletin, formed after they tested 19 products on the Windows 7 operating system. Virus Bulletin is a magazine featuring antivirus products. Most of the technical writers are experts and you'll find your favorite anti-virus vendors contributing articles as well.
You should know that the Microsoft Security Essentials is a free product with no limitation. It can prevent a malware infection that takes advantage of known vulnerabilities and 0-day exploits. Take a look at MSE product review to learn more about the features of the free Microsoft anti-virus program.
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Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET)
The Microsoft Security Response Center announced a new version of the Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET). It's one of the free Microsoft security downloads to consider using, even for home users. EMET will help protect your computer from threats caused by 0-day vulnerabilities.
You can use EMET to block 0 day exploits in many applications including Outlook Express, Windows Mail, Adobe Reader, Java Plugin, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera and many more. Many security conscious users are using an extra layer of protection or an advanced anti-virus and firewall protection that will block or prevent infections that are triggered only on vulnerable systems or applications. Affected vendors need time before they can release a fix, but if the exploit code is publicly available malware creators often quickly take advantage of it.
EMET is also one of the free Microsoft security downloads and you can grab a copy from the Microsoft Download Center website. You may install it on Windows XP with Service Pack 3, Windows Vista with SP1 or SP2 and Windows 7. Server operating systems are also supported.
You don't have to continue running EMET, because once installed it will continue to protect the programs that you've added to EMET's protection list. Take a look at the example screenshot below, in which Process Explorer shows the program is running EMET protection to make it more difficult for an attacker to exploit vulnerabilities in an application they want to target: Adobe Product Security Response team also recommends EMET to help protect against 0-day exploits that target Adobe Reader that are currently not fixed. Naturally, I also suggest changing the settings of Adobe Reader to help protect against attackers in general.
Image credit: Screenshot taken by the author.