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Windows Security Center may not know when your antivirus definitions are out of date.
Microsoft says its Service Pack 2 update adds an additional layer of security to Windows XP-based PCs. However, recent PCW tests seem to show that at least two major security suites are crippling SP2's ability to offer users accurate security information.
SP2, which Microsoft rolled out in August, includes the new Windows Security Center. This feature alerts users when their PC's antivirus or firewall software is missing or out of date. It also signals when the real-time virus scanner is disabled, and when the firewall is not enabled. At least, that's how it's supposed to work.
However, when we installed Symantec's Norton Internet Security 2005 and McAfee's Internet Security Suite 2005 on a system running SP2, both apps caused the Windows Security Center to erroneously report that the products were up-to-date. Any antivirus software, whether downloaded via the Internet or purchased at retail, will need its signatures updated when it is first installed. This is because they need to reflect any new viruses that were discovered between the time the product was created and when it was installed.
In the case of McAfee, even the vendor's own product incorrectly reported that it was up-to-date out of the box. (Symantec's product correctly noted that it required an update).
We also installed Trend Micro's PC-cillin Internet Security 2005 to a system running SP2. In this case, the Windows Security Center properly reflected that the product needed updating. Once the Trend Micro PC-cillin Internet Security 2005 product had been updated, the Windows Security Center status changed accordingly. We had similarly successful results when installing F-Secure Internet Security 2005, ZoneAlarm Internet Security, and Panda Software's Platinum Internet Security 2005. Each of these suites worked seamlessly with the Windows Security Center, and the update status was properly reflected after their installation.