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10/13/2006
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AV Vendors Need Not Fear Microsoft

That from an ex-Microsoft security manager who says Redmond's antivirus moves will mostly help, not hinder, the market

With Microsoft's Forefront security tools due to arrive soon, antivirus vendors are wondering if they'll lose ground to the software giant.

One competitor isn't sweating it, though. Randy Abrams, formerly Microsoft's operations manager for its Global Infrastructure Alliance for Internet Safety and now the director of technical education for AV company Eset, says his former employer's entry into the AV space won't hurt the little guys like his company, but it will put the squeeze on large companies like McAfee, Symantec, Trend Micro, and Computer Associates.

Abrams told attendees of the Virus Bulletin Conference in Montreal today that conspiracy theories that Microsoft's Live OneCare and Forefront AV lines represent "extortion" by Microsoft are offbase. "Microsoft does not deliberately put vulnerabilities in code to [sell] security software."

Microsoft had no AV offering during Abrams' tenure there, so his job was to work with the AV vendors to share information about Microsoft's products and technology. "I'm in a unique position having worked for Microsoft for so long and now I'm working in the AV industry," Abrams says.

Although he adds that Microsoft's initial version of the software hasn't exactly been a showstopper (Abrams notes that OneCare still couldn't detect the zero-day vulnerability found in Excel back in June even after its disclosure and seven AV companies issued updates on it), it will evolve into a viable AV contender. "Microsoft is going to make it better and better." And that will raise the bar for the larger AV companies, which typically aren't known for speedy innovation, he says.

As for concerns about whether Microsoft will readily share information with other AV vendors, Abrams says even though the group in Microsoft responsible for sharing information with the AV industry is now also the same one responsible for the security offerings, this "unholy alliance" likely will be advantageous in the end for everyone.

He thinks Microsoft will be better at sharing information now that it's going to be a member of the AV community. "Any information that the Microsoft antivirus product group has about Microsoft software will probably have to be shared in order to prevent legal problems."

— Kelly Jackson Higgins, Senior Editor, Dark Reading

  • Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)
  • ESET Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

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