Understanding Microsoft SpyNet
Microsoft's goal is to create definitions for all qualifying software. However, thousands of new applications are created and distributed every day, some of which have behaviors unwanted by some people. Because of the rapid pace of newly released software, people can possibly encounter potentially unwanted software that Microsoft has not yet classified. In these cases, Windows Defender should still warn the user if the software takes a potentially undesirable action such as configuring itself to start automatically each time the computer is restarted.
To help users determine whether to allow application changes (detected by real-time protection) when prompted, Windows Defender contacts Microsoft SpyNet to determine how other users have responded when prompted about the same software. If the change is part of a desired software installation, most users will have approved the change, and Windows Defender can use the feedback from SpyNet when informing the user about the change. If the change is unexpected (as it would be for most unwanted software), most users will not approve the change.
Two levels of SpyNet participation are available:
- Basic Windows Defender sends only basic information to Microsoft, including where the software came from, such as the specific URL, and whether the user or Windows Defender allowed or blocked the item. With basic membership, Windows Defender does not alert users if it detects software or changes made by software that has not yet been analyzed for risks. Although personal information might possibly be sent to Microsoft with either basic or advanced SpyNet membership, Microsoft will not use this information to identify or contact the user.
- Advanced Advanced SpyNet membership is intended for users who have an understanding of the inner workings of the operating system and might be able to evaluate whether the changes an application is making are malicious. The key difference between basic and advanced membership is that with advanced membership, Windows Defender will alert users when it detects software or changes that have not yet been analyzed for risks. Also, advanced membership sends additional information to SpyNet, including the location of the software on the local computer, filenames, how the software operates, and how it has affected the computer.
You can configure your SpyNet level by clicking Microsoft SpyNet on the Windows Defender Tools page.
In addition to providing feedback to users about unknown software, SpyNet is also a valuable resource to Microsoft when identifying new malware. Microsoft analyzes information in SpyNet to create new definitions. In turn, this helps slow the spread of potentially unwanted software.
In this tutorial:
- Windows 7 Client Protection
- Understanding the Risk of Malware
- User Account Control in Windows 7
- UAC for Standard Users
- UAC for Administrators
- UAC User Interface
- Secure Desktop
- How Windows Determines Whether an Application Needs Administrative Privileges
- How to Control UAC Using Application Properties
- How UAC Examines the Application Manifest
- UAC Heuristics
- UAC Virtualization
- UAC and Startup Programs
- Compatibility Problems with UAC
- How to Configure UAC
- Group Policy Settings
- Control Panel
- How to Configure Auditing for Privilege Elevation
- Other UAC Event Logs
- Best Practices for Using UAC
- AppLocker Rule Types
- Auditing AppLocker Rules
- DLL Rules
- Custom Error Messages
- Using AppLocker with Windows PowerShell
- Using Windows 7 Defender
- Understanding Windows Defender
- Automatic Scanning
- Real-Time Protection
- Windows Defender Alert Levels
- Understanding Microsoft SpyNet
- Configuring Windows Defender Group Policy
- Configuring Windows Defender on a Single Computer
- How to Determine Whether a Computer Is Infected with Spyware
- Best Practices for Using Windows Defender
- How to Troubleshoot Problems with Unwanted Software
- Network Access Protection