The Microsoft Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool

This appeared recently in the list of updates of a WinXP system where I am assisting a customer doing a migration to Linux-based desktops.

The Microsoft Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool helps remove specific, prevalent malicious software from computers that are running Windows Server 2003, Windows XP, or Windows 2000.

It was a nice opportunity to explain to my customer why Windows environments need this kind of « cleanup » tools. Short answer: Internet Explorer (including Outlook Express) and Microsoft Office (including Outlook), which account for most (if not all) of the most common uses of a desktop environment are deeply tied into the operating system. This means that almost anything bad a unsuspecting user lets happen also means trouble to the operating system.

From their knowledge base:

The Malicious Software Removal Tool is released on the second Tuesday of every month. Each release of the tool helps detect and remove current, prevalent malicious software. This malicious software includes viruses, worms, and Trojan horses. Microsoft uses several metrics to determine the prevalence of a malicious software family and the damage that can be associated with it.

It’s still very important to update your Windows environment and follow good habits in security, like using the Mozilla products. However this is not nearly enough to keep your computer up and running.

My work is not limited to enterprise audits but I also perform individual security audits and from time to time, public lectures on how to go about that. It’s interesting that I have to know a lot about Microsoft even if I don’t use them primarily, if only to be able to better compare them to open source software alternatives.

It’s also clear that Microsoft is not composed of a bunch of stupid people taking wrong decisions. In the beginning, I believe this was all done in the name of simplicity and ease of use for the end user, but this has led to the problems we have now. If this sounds confusing and contradictory, I’m open to any beer venues to further elaborate 😉