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An independent test of Windows Defender against third party vendors has demonstrated holes in Microsoft Vista’s spyware protection. Calls of Swiss Cheese could be heard coming from the direction of Spyware Doctor vendor PC Tools which commissioned Australian concern Enex Testlab to evaluate how Windows Defender compared to its own and other products. Enxe Testlab is not some fly-by-night outfit or a sham set up just to soothe the PC Tools ego either, it is an internationally renowned, independent lab which has been performing comparison tests for the past 17 years.

In the latest study, it compared identical threats against a number of leading anti-spyware products throughout 2006 and concluded that Spyware Doctor was the overall winner. No great surprise there then, PC Tools would hardly be making a song and dance out of it were it not so. What was surprising was the relatively poor performance of Windows Defender. According to the aggregate Enex test results for the entirety of 2006, Microsoft’s Windows Defender quick scan was able to block only 46.61 percent of dangerous threats while their full scan blocked 53.39 percent. Tested at the same time and using the same sample-set, PC Tools’ Spyware Doctor quick scan blocked 83.26 percent and the full scan blocked 88.69 percent.

Research from other security vendors has also revealed weaknesses in Vista’s security, from ineffective blocking capabilities and slow definition updates through to weak in-built anti-spyware protection. If nothing else the Enex results show once again that when it comes to security Vista, while undoubtedly ‘better’ than XP and equally undoubtedly ‘the most secure’ Windows OS yet, still has a way to go and cannot be considered the be all and end all in desktop security. No matter what impression the marketing men would give. Consumers are most at risk, in that they will happily eat the spoon fed security promises without any understanding of the real world dangers they still face.

“We have taken a look at several anti-spyware vendors over time to determine the current level of accuracy against spyware threats in 2006. These results show Vista requires more work to protect users. Third party security vendors, especially in the area of anti-spyware are still essential components in protecting users.” said Matt Tett, Senior Test Engineer for Enex TestLab. Simon Clausen, CEO of PC Tools went further “We have been watching with interest the development of Microsoft’s Vista security effort. We know that Microsoft is facing difficult challenges with the broadening scope of dangerous malware attacks while also trying to maintain backwards compatibility and usability. While we agree with the overriding conclusion that Vista security is lacking, this approach fundamentally contradicts the laws of statistical analysis, and clearly creates a bias result. By hand-picking the sample-set, it is easy to return results showing whatever you want. It would even be possible to show Vista had 0 percent blocking ability. We wanted to prove through an independent and unbiased review, where PC Tools did not choose or supply the sample-set, that Vista’s anti-spyware protection is in fact inadequate, and could result in a false sense of security to consumers.”

As Editorial Director and Managing Analyst with IT Security Thing I am putting more than two decades of consulting experience into providing opinionated insight regarding the security threat landscape for IT security professionals. As an Editorial Fellow with Dennis Publishing, I bring more than two decades of writing experience across the technology industry into publications such as Alphr, IT Pro and (in good old fashioned print) PC Pro. I also write for SC Magazine UK and Infosecurity, as well as The Times and Sunday Times newspapers. Along the way I have been honoured with a Technology Journalist of the Year award, and three Information Security Journalist of the Year awards. Most humbling, though, was the Enigma Award for 'lifetime contribution to IT security journalism' bestowed on me in 2011.

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