How To Defend Yourself On Windows 8

Artice by Phil Chapman, Windows 8 Instructor at Firebrand Training

Without doubt, one of the most widespread security concerns for any network – regardless of size – is protection from malicious software and spyware. The varying degrees of potential attacks from the likes of viruses, worms and Trojan Horses leave most users totally confused and paranoid.

As with most security; prevention is better than cure. And nothing goes further in beating potential attacks than user training and awareness. But this alone rarely protects us, and suitable antivirus and anti-malware protection is a necessary addition to all systems.

Because of this, the market is flooded with antivirus and anti-malware products at a variety of prices.

So how do you protect yourself?

Most new home PCs come laden with trial versions of antivirus products, from great companies offering great solutions for great protection. And great though they are – trial means just that.  Thirty days after activation the product prompts us to make a purchase that we either can’t afford – or can’t be bothered – to pay.

If you pay for a piece of software, you expect to get something for your money. A game, video or music file generally gives you instant enjoyment. Whereas an antivirus product just sits there and appears to do ‘nothing’. This is why some programmes announce their presence on your PC in a big, bold, alarming fashion.  Sometimes less is more.

And how do you protect yourself for free?

Windows Defender was developed on Vista, and made available on XP. But it entered the fray in an already crowded market, and didn’t really offer much to impress the user. It initially only provided protection from spyware. So users were normally tempted away by other antivirus providers which offered the full package. This included some great free programs.

Then came Microsoft Security Essentials, which sat alongside Defender to provide a more complete antivirus for the home user or small business. Security Essentials is a good all-rounder which sits quietly in the background doing its thing, and only really makes an impression when it detects or blocks something nasty.  As a free antivirus product, this is perfect.

MSE ScanThe new approach on Windows 8 rolls Defender and Essentials into one and retains the name of Defender. It’s easy to use, requires very little or no interaction from the user, and comes as a standard fit on the Operating System. The programme protects an otherwise unsuspecting user for free.

Being a Microsoft product, it automatically scans the system and updates on a regular basis – and only makes a fuss when blocking or detecting an intrusion.  It also gives the user the manual Scan Options, to complete a Quick, Full or Customised scan.

MSE Update

How to stay protected

Updating antivirus definitions and signatures is an automatic process, and runs prior to a scheduled scan taking place. But again, you can manually invoke this.

Detected virus or spyware is placed in the Quarantine area, which can be monitored from the History tab. This allows you to immediately delete, or restore the program if found not to be malicious.

Configurable settings include which areas are to be routinely scanned, and provide the option to scan any external drives (USB Flash Drives and attached hard drives).  By default, quarantined items are automatically scavenged after three months  - which can also be configured:

MSE Settings

Like most things in life – you get what you pay for. Microsoft Windows Defender on Windows 8 is free and easy. In comparison to rival freeware antivirus products it stacks up very well, and in comparison to using nothing it is perfect.

Would I trust my home PC with Security Essentials and/or Defender? Yes! And I have been for several years with no fear or worries. However, I return to the statement at the top…I am a user who has been given suitable training and awareness.

Do you use a free anti-virus application in Windows or can you recommend a great paid for one? Why not tell us your recommendations in the comments section below…

How To Defend Yourself On Windows 8
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  • Bob

    I’ve found Kaspersky to generally offer the best detection, including a lot of the more ‘obscure’ malware. It also does a good job of detecting obfuscated malware, generally much better than the likes of McAfee and Symantec, which is generally pretty easy to bypass through the use of custom packers or similar obfuscation methods. The only downside to this is that system utilisation can unfortunately become quite high, it can be pretty heavy on system resources at times.

    ESET NOD32 is a bit more lightweight, I’ve found utilisation to generally be much lower than Kaspersky, at only a slight sacrifice to what it is able to detect.

    Defender is a pretty good compromise. If you’re just a regular Internet browser who generally avoids the dark corners of the Internet I find it works pretty well, if I’m setting up machines for friends/family I would generally set them up with Defender instead of a paid anti-virus program, where you can guarantee that the license will just expire down the line and not be renewed, leaving them more exposed than with the free product in the long run.

    • Kev Quirk

      I tend to do the same “Bob” (Dave) as you say, Defender is pretty good compromise and will leave people less exposed 12 months down the line. However, I’ve been leaning more towards Avast! Free lately over Defender.