Microsoft Defender, the company’s security app, is now available to any individual who has a subscription to Microsoft 365, the online productivity suite that includes Word, Excel, and more. Different from the previously released Microsoft Defender software that 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 is still preinstalling software on Windows to protect against viruses and other malware. That software is now simply branded as Windows Security. Beyond accessing a security dashboard where all your connected devices are visible, there’s not a lot of extra incentive for Windows owners to download the new Microsoft Defender app.
Microsoft is extending protection options to Mac and smartphone owners who use Microsoft 365. Not all devices receive the same protections, however. For example, on the Mac, anti-malware protection is provided by Microsoft Defender, while web protection is not.
On the other hand, iPhones and Android devices are able to use web protection from Microsoft Defender. The web protection runs a virtual private network on your smartphone in the background and tries to intervene if any dangerous hyperlinks appear. Microsoft claims that the data from your browsing history is stored on-device and not shared with the company. Learn even more about VPNs and boosting your digital privacy with WIRED senior writer and reviewer Scott Gilbertson’s guide to the best VPNs. In addition to web protection, the anti-malware protection from Microsoft Defender is supported for Android phones.
The new Microsoft Defender app is designed to be used specifically by consumers—as in families and individuals. Although the names are similar, Microsoft Defender for Endpoint is a separate security suite for businesses. Microsoft has guidance on its website to help you understand the Endpoint version and how to switch between accounts.
If you aren’t a Microsoft 365 subscriber but want to get Microsoft Defender, a personal plan costs $70 a year, and a family plan for up to six people costs $100 a year. With a subscription to Microsoft 365, you get OneDrive cloud storage access, in addition to both online and downloadable versions of popular software like Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. (Check out this article from WIRED contributor David Nield if you’re on the hunt for a free version of Microsoft Word.)
So who will benefit from the new Microsoft Defender? The features offered are slim at the moment, and it might not be as involved as software from Norton or McAfee, but that may be a good thing considering Defender is more lightweight than either of those options. Keeping that in mind, the large quantity of devices tracked from a single dashboard could be a boon for family leaders trying to keep an eye on the whole crew’s security across multiple devices.
Subscribers to the Microsoft 365 individual plan can get Microsoft Defender to protect five devices at once. For those on the family plan, you can simultaneously shield up to 30 devices. The suite will send you alerts whenever Grandma downloads malware onto her computer (again) or the teens on their smartphones click a malicious link.
Searching for even more strategies to beef up your digital security? WIRED has helpful advice on everything from password protecting your files to keeping those spicy pics private. You wouldn’t leave your front door unlocked while running errands, and with so much of our lives experienced online, taking protective measures on your computer and smartphone makes just as much sense.