Why is Windows Defender Alone an Insufficient Cybersecurity Solution?

This feature is designed to protect users’ devices and data but is insufficient protection against today’s advanced threats and growing cyber risk. Let’s look at the notable security features that Microsoft Defender for Endpoint offers, the downsides of this protection, and evaluate its security performance.

What Are the Security Features of Microsoft Defender for Endpoint?

Microsoft Defender is a significant component in protecting the next generation. It combines Machine Learning, big-data analysis, research, and the Microsoft cloud infrastructure to protect an organization's devices (or endpoints). Here are the notable security features it provides.

  • Virus & threat protection - Monitor threats to your device, run scans, and get updates to help detect the latest threats. (Some options are unavailable if you're running Windows 10 in S mode.)
  • Account protection - Access sign-in options and account settings, including Windows Hello and dynamic lock.
  • Firewall & network protection - Manage firewall settings and monitor what’s happening with your networks and internet connections.
  • App & browser control - Update settings for Microsoft Defender SmartScreen to help protect your device against potentially dangerous apps, files, sites, and downloads. You'll have exploit protection, and you can customize protection settings for your devices.
  • Device security - Review built-in security options to help protect your device from attacks by malicious software.
  • Device performance & health - View status info about your device’s performance health, and keep your device clean and up to date with the latest version of Windows.
  • Family options - Keep track of your kids’ online activity and the devices in your household.

What are the Downsides of This Protection?

Windows Defender may come with and provide many security features for users. However, there are still downsides to only depending on this software to protect data and devices, possibly resulting in critical security gaps. Notable limitations of Windows Defender include: 

  • Lacks integrated dashboard for all devices using Windows Defender- While Windows Defender is a good choice for personal computers, it lacks a dashboard that allows you to monitor all devices underneath a network. This limits its functionality for large-scale use and forces companies to look elsewhere for better network control.  
  • No accountability if a computer is infected by malware- Unlike other antivirus programs, Microsoft explicitly states in its terms and conditions that they are not liable for any virus or malware that infects your computer. The lack of accountability can be off-putting for some users.
  • Limited features for large-scale use- Besides having an integrated dashboard for all devices, Windows Defender also needs other features that other antivirus programs have. It’s difficult to create special rules, advanced features for more advanced users are not as easy to access, and phishing protection is limited to Microsoft web browsers (unless you use an extension for another browser).
  • Slows down installation of frequently used applications- On a standard PC, Windows Defender slows down the installation of frequently used applications by 35%. The slowing down of installation is essential to know if speed is the highest factor in your satisfaction with using a PC. 

But Really, How Well Does It Perform?

Windows Defender is less efficient and effective than other endpoint protection software. The Windows Defender SmartScreen filter in Edge blocked just 68 percent of phishing sites, while Firefox and Chrome blocked 89 and 90 percent, respectively. These percentages may seem impressive initially, but today’s phishing attacks are extremely hard to spot and can have devastating consequences.

Windows Defender doesn't cover the same breadth of products as third-party security companies’ endpoint protection software. For instance, a company that sells you antivirus software can also provide backup protection, a password manager, a VPN, parental control, and more, often rolled up in a security suite. 

What Can I Do to Bolster the Security Provided by Windows Defender?

Depending only on Windows Defender can be dangerous for users and businesses because it makes it much easier for cybercriminals to attack and breach information without backup. Users and companies must implement additional protection mechanisms such as a virtual private network (VPN), identity theft protection, dark web monitoring, anti-theft protection, webcam/microphone protection, system optimization tools, and password management. To protect against cyberattacks, these are some security approaches users and organizations should prioritize:

  • Look for better malware protection. While Windows Defender is a good antivirus with a high malware detection rate, other solutions can detect more types of malware than Microsoft Defender, such as advanced ransomware, trojans, and spyware.
  • Choose an antivirus that offers superior web protection. Although Windows Defender provides satisfactory web security, other options work better against device harm. Top alternatives to Windows Defender come with outstanding protection against phishing, malware, and drive-by-download threats. 
  • Look for additional security features. Despite recent improvements, Windows Defender lacks advanced features such as a password manager, system optimization tools, and a VPN. Investing in these tools can add additional layers of security to the protection Windows Defender provides.
  • Find an antivirus with better parental controls. Windows offers a range of parental controls, but they are tricky to set up, some lack functionality, and the website content filtering only works in the Microsoft Edge browser. Look for parental controls that are easier to set up and use, work on multiple browsers (including Chrome), and are compatible with various devices (including Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS).

A dangerous trend we’ve identified is that many businesses continue to make the critical mistake of relying on endpoint security alone to safeguard against attacks and breaches. Endpoint security is a solid start, but more is needed to combat sophisticated and evolving threats. With additional layers of advanced protection technologies, expert system management, and support, businesses can bolster the protection provided by Windows Defender and other endpoint security solutions to safeguard their assets and reputation.

Final Thoughts on Overcoming the Security Shortcomings of Windows Defender

Modern cybersecurity solutions and antivirus software are one step ahead of Windows Defender. Almost all of them have mobile security features that complement the original antivirus on the PC. There are millions of Windows users worldwide, and Defender comes pre-installed with almost all Windows devices. This makes Defender software vulnerable to various cyberattacks. Because it works just the same in each and every computer, cybercriminals target this software with a better success rate, as it’s easy to predict and exploit.

In addition, Defender often simply can’t cope with the rate at which malware gets updated. As a result, several malware variants have escaped the security net provided by Defender and entered PCs in the past. A problem occurred where malware took control of the Windows Defender itself and restricted the user from re-enabling its protection. So, heading into 2024, it is apparent that we must look elsewhere to protect ourselves online.

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