It's nice to see the software giant attack the persistent problem head-on, rather than incomplete and inappropriate response (including XP SP2, which is more or less a bunch of "hotfixes" bundled together). The Anti-spyware program, available for download from www.microsoft.com, in typical MS fashion, is a beta, keeping alive the Microsoft tradition of using end-users as testers. Not only that, but this beta release has the name of the company the software was acquired from all over it (GIANT software). Looks like MS was in such a hurry to appease the users that had been swaying towards the unspeakable, ever since CERT recommended using Firefox over IE.
The other fears are along the line of updates. While the product is currently beta and the updates are free, what would happen once the bugs are eased off and enough data is gathered by MS (along with time) to plug the holes and the vulnerabilities this anti-spyware itself may contain?
Cure vs Protection?
Typically, MS has always been slow in responding to security and vulnerability fears, despite its claim to put security foremost in its priorities. Since it cannot do much about the current code base (other than push hotfixes as vulnerabilities are discovered), and Windows Longhorn doesn't seem to be anywhere on the horizon, MS has used its enormous resources to side-step the real issue - the numerous bugs and vulnerabilities that exist in the platform.
Further, such tools can only provide a cure once a security vulnerability or exploit is discovered. The updates or pattern files (or sig files) shall be pushed to end-users via Windows updates, and this product merely consolidates the several hotfixes that MS has released over the last year thattargeting a single virus, worm or variants, including Blaster, Mydoom and Download.Ject. In this context, this tool isn't any different than the already available tools such as Adaware or HiJackThis.
Incidentally, this announcement also takes the sheen of the fledgling anti-virus industry that Microsoft helped create. Symantec shares have dropped by six percent and McAfee were down by around four percent yesterday as Microsoft's news was announced. While Microsoft's free software is not an immediate threat, there is the fear that Vole will use its size and influence to expand into markets now dominated by those companies.