Microsoft Guard, The company’s secure apps are now available to any individual with a subscription to Microsoft 365, an online productivity suite that includes Word, Excel, and more. Unlike previously released Microsoft Defender software, which was built exclusively into Windows computers, this version is available on Windows, Android, macOS, and iOS devices.
Owners of Windows computers without Microsoft 365 don’t need to sweat; Microsoft still preinstalls software on Windows to protect against viruses and other malware. The software is now simply named Windows Security. Windows owners don’t have much additional incentive to download the new Microsoft Defender app beyond accessing a security dashboard visible to all connected devices.
Microsoft is expanding protection options to Mac and smartphone owners using Microsoft 365. However, not all devices receive the same protection. For example, on a Mac, anti-malware protection is provided by Microsoft Defender, while Web protection is not.
On the other hand, iPhone and Android devices can use Microsoft Defender’s Web Protection. Web Protection runs a virtual private network on your smartphone in the background and tries to intervene in the event of any dangerous hyperlinks. Microsoft claims that data from your browsing history is stored on the device and not shared with the company. Learn more about VPNs and enhancing your digital privacy with WIRED senior writer and critic Scott Gilbertson’s guide to the best VPNs. In addition to web protection, Android phones also support Microsoft Defender’s anti-malware protection.
The new Microsoft Defender app is designed for consumers such as families and individuals. Despite the similar names, Microsoft Defender for Endpoint is a separate enterprise security suite. Microsoft provides guidance on its website to help you understand Endpoint editions and how to switch between accounts.
If you’re not a Microsoft 365 subscriber but want to get Microsoft Defender, the individual plan costs $70 per year, and the family plan for up to six people costs $100 per year. With a Microsoft 365 subscription, you get access to OneDrive cloud storage, as well as online and downloadable versions of popular software such as Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. (If you’re looking for a free version of Microsoft Word, check out this article by WIRED contributor David Nield.)
So who will benefit from the new Microsoft Defender? There’s very little on offer right now, and it’s probably not as sophisticated as software from Norton or McAfee, but that’s probably a good thing considering the Defender is more lightweight than either of these options. With this in mind, the large number of devices tracked from a single dashboard can be a boon for family leaders trying to focus on the safety of their entire crew on multiple devices.
Subscribers to the Microsoft 365 Personal plan can have Microsoft Defender protect five devices at once. For family plan users, you can block up to 30 devices at the same time. The suite will send you an alert every time a grandma downloads malware on her computer (again) or a teen clicks a malicious link on a smartphone.
Looking for more strategies to enhance your digital security? WIRED has helpful advice on everything from password protecting files to keeping those spicy photos private. You’re not going to leave your front door unlocked while you’re running errands, and with so much of our life online, it just makes sense to have protection on your computer and smartphone.