With the release of Windows 8.1, the primary concern for security professionals is how to protect the operating system against viruses and malware. Malicious software continues to grow in both quantity and sophistication and today's admins need adequate tools to protect their businesses.
The challenge facing today's administrators is that an effective antivirus solution can't just stop at the desktop client. With users' expectations to access data anytime, anywhere, and from any device, the tools we use to protect them have to demonstrate the ability to adapt to these new expectations without sacrificing convenience or performance. Security solutions that have mobile devices and cloud-based services all under the same management suite are becoming more popular. Along with deeper scan products designed to protect against ransomware using predictive and hardware accelerated technologies.
Today we'll review some of the best antivirus solutions for Windows 8.1, starting with Microsoft's built-in (and free!) Windows Defender.
Microsoft's Windows Defender
Some may not be aware that Windows 8.1 comes with built-in virus protection labeled as Windows Defender. From a client side protection perspective, Windows Defender has a largely already-installed base, primarily because it is a part of Windows 8.1. A primary potential advantage of Windows Defender is that, because it is already built into the operating system, it should be better at providing protection.
Windows 8.1 can be monitored and managed with Microsoft's System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager (SCCM) and with Windows Intune. System Center 2012 is designed to allow an organization to manage an entire environment and comes with the complexity and overhead of a far-reaching tool that lacks the granularity of virus management and protection. Windows Intune offers mobile device management (MDM), mobile application management (MAM), and PC management capabilities that are cloud-based. Microsoft also recently released its Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS), a unified suite of products that combines the cloud-based management of Windows Intune with the on-prem capabilities of SCCM along with Azure Active Directory (for identity and access management) and Azure Rights Management Services (for data protection). EMS allows organizations to manage all types of devices, including Windows PCs, mobile devices and servers as well as Unix and Linux servers and iOS and Android smartphones and tablets.
The Windows Defender product is a basic consumer level antivirus solution that lands somewhere in the middle of the pack for consumer protection. However, it is not designed for the workplace as it offers little email or browsing protection. Centralized management is done with Microsoft Security Essentials for up to ten computers and beyond that it is a combination of Microsoft System Center 2012 Endpoint Protection managed through Microsoft System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager.
Microsoft's System Center Configuration Manager product offers tremendous features that also carry a lot of overhead to simply deploy an antivirus solution.Application and device management with compliance settings, OS patching and deployments combined with monitoring can be great features for organizations that needs and can afford these features.But for companies simply looking to protect against viruses, a more dedicated solution would be ideal. We present several such choices on the following page with a quick features overview below.