Is it time to trust Microsoft with your PC security?

Ever since viruses started to hit the headlines back in the 1980s, security for PCs has been big business. Products like Norton and McAfee have grown to household name status, and made their original developers very rich men on the back of it.

This is mainly because Windows wasn’t built with security in mind and was adopted in such huge numbers that it made a tempting target. Until recently that is. With Security Essentials built into Windows 8 and active by default, and available free for users of older systems, the boys at Redmond have suddenly started to take security seriously.

So is it time it throw off the shackles of your security subscription and trust Microsoft to do the job? The Consumers’ Association  in the UK certainly thinks so. In independent tests it rated Windows 8 as better than anything else at protecting against viruses and phishing attacks, with Microsoft Security Essentials a close second for those running earlier Windows versions. Their best buy paid suite, Bullguard, came in third with the best rated free alternative, Avira, a distant seventh. You can read details of how the tests were carried out here.

Of course if you pay for a security suite you get all kinds of extras like a backup tool, parental controls, identity protection, password management and system tune up. But hold on, most of these things are included in Security Essentials too and they don’t seem to put the brakes on performance in the way that some of the third party suites do. For the elements that are missing, like ID protection and a password vault, there are plenty of free alternatives to be had.

With Microsoft’s security solutions putting on a show of strength in this way it’s important to ask what the effect might be on the third-party security market. If these test results stand up to experience in the real world then the big security names are going to be left floundering to justify why you need to use their products. Maybe they’ll turn their marketing efforts on all those unprotected Macs out there instead.

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