Microsoft’s new investments in Windows Defender and its advanced threat protection program appear to be paying off in the enterprise at least on Windows 10.
The company today announced that Windows Defender Antivirus, once shunned as “basic protection” because of its it’s relatively low malware detection rates, is now the most widely deployed antivirus among enterprise organizations.
But there is a catch to that claim. As Brad Anderson, Microsoft’s vice president of enterprise mobility and security notes, Windows Defender is the antivirus of choice on more than 50 percent of Windows 10 devices in the enterprise.
That’s an important milestone but an equally important distinction given that Windows 7 is still likely the dominant desktop platform in the enterprise, despite Windows 10 becoming the top desktop OS globally in January, according to web analytics firm StatCounter.
Nonetheless, Windows 10, first released in 2015, may be be picking up pace among businesses, particularly as they face the prospect of no more Windows 7 security updates after January 14, 2020.
Microsoft’s latest monthly active user figures in November said that Windows 10 was running on 600 million devices worldwide.
Web analytics firm Net Applications’ March report of a slight uptick in Windows 10 share growth convinced Computerworld’s Windows watcher Gregg Keizer that the bump was due to upgrades by businesses preparing for the end of Windows 7 support, and the fact that Microsoft’s free-upgrade period for consumers ended long ago.
Regardless of Windows 10 adoption among businesses, Anderson offers troubling statistics for enterprise security vendors.
Windows Defender has an 18 percent share of Windows 7 and Windows 8 devices in the enterprise, while over half of Windows 10 enterprise devices use Microsoft’s own built-in antivirus.
According to Anderson, this signals a trend that's likely to continue as Windows 10 adoption increases.
“What we are seeing is that as organizations are moving to Windows 10 they are also moving to our antivirus as their preferred solution. With our antivirus solution being used on more than 50% percent of the Windows 10 PCs deployed in commercial organizations, it is now the most commonly used antivirus solution in commercial organizations on that platform. This usage is in commercial customers of all sizes – from small and medium-sized businesses to the largest enterprise organizations,” said Anderson.
Microsoft is also ramping up security offers to businesses on Windows 7 that are considering a move to Windows 10. Until recently Microsoft had been encouraging consumers and business to upgrade to Windows 10 as the best defense against ransomware like WannaCry and NotPetya.
But in February Microsoft announced Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP), a set of security tools for Window 10 alone, would be extended to Windows 7 SP1 and Windows 8.1. Microsoft said it was to assist businesses moving to Windows 10.
Anderson also highlighted Microsoft’s dramatically improved performance ratings in tests carried out over the years by independent antivirus testing outfits, such as AV-Compartives and AV-Test.
Prior to 2015 Microsoft Security Essentials and Windows Defender was trailing behind the Kaspersky, McAfee, Symantec and many others. But in February, Windows Defender was among four products that scored 100 percent alongside Kaspersky, McAfee and F-Secure.
Anderson said Microsoft's results improved markedly throughout 2015 and have risen to perfect and near-perfect scores in 2017 and 2018, which don't take in to consideration its Windows Defender ATP exploit mitigation features and hardware-based defenses.