Microsoft plans antivirus software for Android and iOS devices

Microsoft plans antivirus software for Android and iOS devices thumbnail

Satya Nadella, chief executive of Microsoft, speaks during a panel session on day three of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Jason Alden | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Microsoft will soon offer its Defender antivirus software for phones and other devices running Google‘s Android and Apple‘s iOS mobile operating systems, the company announced Thursday.

The offering is Microsoft’s latest effort to sell products to consumers using other companies’ mobile products. Despite Microsoft’s decades of experience with PC operating systems, Microsoft failed to gain a leading role in the market for smartphone operating systems, and in 2017 an executive made clear the company would stop building new Windows mobile features.

In recent years the company has brought Office to Android and iOS, acquired popular mobile keyboard app SwiftKey, and come out with new mobile titles based on the Minecraft game it bought in 2014. Last year, Microsoft partnered with top Android phone maker Samsung and even introduced its own two-screened Android phone.

Apple and Google have sought to police their app stores from instances of malware. That hasn’t stopped Microsoft from jumping in.

“They’re pretty safe, but pretty safe is not the same as safe,” Rob Lefferts, a Microsoft corporate vice president, said in an interview at company headquarters in Redmond, Washington, last week. “Malware does happen on those platforms.”

People can end up allowing malware onto their Android devices by installing applications they find outside of Google Play, the official repository of apps for Android, Lefferts said.

What’s more, he said, mobile devices people can be subject to phishing, in which hackers provide inauthentic interfaces where people can enter usernames and passwords and inadvertently expose their credentials. Defender could help companies make employees less vulnerable to such attacks, Lefferts said.

Microsoft already offers the Intune software that IT administrators can use to manage employees’ PCs, smartphones and tablets. The Defender software coming to Android and iOS is about security, rather than management. It’s designed to prevent people from visiting online destinations that Microsoft deems unsafe, Lefferts said.

Microsoft sees an $80 billion total addressable security market, general manager Andrew Conway said during a media briefing at corporate headquarters.

Security became a higher priority at Microsoft after co-founder Bill Gates sent his “trustworthy computing” memo to employees in 2002. Windows Defender was originally introduced in 2006, and last year the company changed the name to Microsoft Defender reflect the release of a version for Apple’s Mac operating system. The company last year also introduced security-analytics tool called Azure Sentinel that competes with the likes of Splunk.

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