Microsoft Security Essentials Beta Reaches Max Downloads

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Less than 24 hours after it launched MSE, Microsoft has reached the maximum 75,000 downloads for its MSE free antivirus product, released Tuesday.

Users who now try to download MSE will be treated to an alert:

"Thank you for your interest in joining the Microsft Security Essentials Beta. We are not accepting additional participants at this time. Please check back at a later date for possible additional availability."

Oh well, maybe next time.

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Microsoft's new, free security product, MSE, is currently being beta tested in the U.S., Brazil and Israel, with 32- and 64-bit versions of the antimalware application running on Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 in those markets.

Microsoft touts the program as a lightweight, unobtrusive, consumer-ready antimalware application. And true to form, the application appears to be a slimmed-down version of the company's consumer Windows Live OneCare product, minus the personal firewalls, backup capabilities and spam filters, but intended to protect users against an array of malware, including viruses, Trojans, spyware and rootkits.

Microsoft will officially discontinue its commercial Live OneCare product as of June 30. But users have a replacement with MSE, and several early reviews say that the product is fast and efficient for its intended audience -- those who can't afford or won't otherwise pay for security on their PCs.

In addition, MSE offers a few features that sets it apart from those of its predecessor. For example, its beefed-up rootkit protection provides advanced technologies, such as live kernel behavior monitoring, support for direct file system parsing and improved live rootkit removal.

MSE also provides CPU throttling, which keeps a user's system responsive when conducting routine tasks such as opening files or browser windows, or launching an application.

The Register Web site reports that independent testing done by found that the MSE accurately detected and treated viruses, bots and worm samples from a set of WildList malware released about a week ago.

The antimalware product also did well when tested against a large set of false positives, without mistaking a slew of benign samples for malicious ones. Plus, it's available as a free direct download, without registration, trials or renewals.

Microsoft maintains that MSE detects malware in real-time, but AV-Test critics have noted that the product doesn't appear to use cloud-based scanning services and subsequently lacks behavior-based technologies. Instead MSE relies on a signature database regularly updated every few hours when it conducts its scans.

A company fact sheet maintains that MSE's Dynamic Signature Service identifies malicious files in "near" real-time by querying its Dynamic Signature Service, which updates signatures after being triggered by suspicious actions such as a malicious content download or an attempt to modify privileged parts of the system.

However, as reviewers pointed out, they still have a long way to go in assessing MSE's overall malware detection capabilities, and whether it will withstand the test of time or go the way of Live OneCare remains to be seen.