Microsoft planning to use AI to beef up Windows Defender

A move towards better built-in security.

Microsoft has put a lot of attention into Windows Defender, the built-in security software that ships with Windows. So much, in fact, that it's drawn antitrust complaints from Kaspersky for shunning third-party alternatives. In a move that will further reinforce Microsoft's decision to promote Windows Defender over all other security programs, the Redmond outfit has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Hexadite, a cybersecurity outfit with researchers in Israel (its headquarters are in Boston).

Once the deal is finalized, Microsoft will begin incorporating Hexadite's anti-malware technologies into Windows Defender. Part of that will include artificial intelligence-based automatic investigation and remediation technologies, which Microsoft says will make Windows Defender both faster and more effective at identifying and neutralizing security threats.

"Our vision is to deliver a new generation of security capabilities that helps our customers protect, detect and respond to the constantly evolving and ever-changing cyberthreat landscape," Microsoft's Terry Myerson stated in a blog post. "Hexadite’s technology and talent will augment our existing capabilities and enable our ability to add new tools and services to Microsoft’s robust enterprise security offerings."

Hexadite currently offers a product called AIRS (automated Incident Response Solution) that works with other security detection systems. The company claims it can reduce the time it takes to resolve a cyber incident by 95 percent.

Microsoft did not disclose financial details of the pending transaction, though TechCrunch says it heard from unnamed sources that it's a $100 million deal. Regardless of price, this is the latest in a growing line of security acquisitions by Microsoft, which previously included Aorato, Adollom, and Secure Islands.

Anything Microsoft can do to make Windows Defender more competitive with third-party solutions is fine by us. As it stands, Windows Defender is a decent security product, but slow and thin on features. And based on independent laboratory testing, it's also outgunned by the competition in terms of threat detection. In the latest real-world evaluation by AV-Comparatives (PDF), for example, Windows Defender did not do as good of a job as our top AV pick Bitdefender, as well as alternatives such as Kaspersky, Avast, AVG, and Avira.