The Malicious Safety OneCare Essential Defender: Straightening out Microsoft's confusing security tools

Microsoft has released a confusing selection of security programs over the years. Deborah Armstrong asked me to make sense of them.

Microsoft has released a confusing selection of security programs over the years. Deborah Armstrong asked me to make sense of them.

[Email your tech questions to or post them on the PCW Answer Line forum.]

When it comes to security, the folks in Redmond can go overboard with new products--or worse, new names for old products. What follows is a complete list of Microsoft programs, past and present, intended to help keep malware off your computer.

At least, I think it's complete. If I missed anything, that's what the comment section is for.

Microsoft AntiSpyware: No longer available. You can think of this as an antivirus program that looked for spyware rather than viruses. Since modern antivirus programs also look for spyware, it was kind of redundant. It eventually became Windows Defender (see below).

Microsoft  OneCare Live: No longer available. This utility and security suite included antivirus, backup, and other tools.

Windows Live OneCare Scanner: No longer available. This on-demand malware scanner was intended to supplement your regular anti-virus program by offering a second opinion when you felt you needed one.

Microsoft Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool: Another on-demand malware scanner, still available, but of limited usefulness. It's designed to remove a few specific, particularly stubborn threats. It's only updated once a month.

Microsoft Safety Scanner: Yet another on-demand scanner, although this time with a more comprehensive malware database. Safety Scanner is updated every ten days, which is better than monthly but still not frequently enough.

Microsoft Standalone System Sweeper: No longer available.  Would you believe...another on-demand scanner? But this time, it's bootable, from either a CD or a flash drive. Bootable scanners are, arguably, the most effective kind.

Malware Prevention Diagnostic Tool: An entirely different kind of scanner. Instead of looking for malware, it checks how you've configured Windows and offers to fix settings that can be exploited by the bad guys.

Windows Defender: The renamed Microsoft AntiSpyware. It comes with Vista and Windows 7, but is usually turned off.

Windows Defender Offline:  Another bootable scanner. Microsoft Standalone System Sweeper's replacement.

Microsoft Security Essentials: Microsoft's free antivirus program. As these programs go, Essentials is one of the easiest to use. But it's not the best at catching malware.

Windows Defender--the Windows 8 version: Like the two Windows before it, version 8 comes with Windows Defender. But this time, it uses the same antimalware engine as Security Essentials. In other words, it's a real antivirus program, but probably not one of the most effective.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Microsoftsecuritymalware

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Lincoln Spector

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place