Windows 10: Microsoft’s antivirus tool can be used to download malware

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What a disaster. The tool designed by Microsoft to protect Windows 10 users from viruses and cyberattacks could be the very reason that your PC is infected with malware. The latest version of the antivirus app, known as Windows Defender Antivirus, can be used to download malware, security-focused blog Bleeping Computer has reported.

The problem stems from the fact that Windows Defender, which is available on all versions of Windows 10, can be used to download almost any file from the internet, including malware. Worse still, Tom’s Guide was able to download the EICAR test file – a well-known simulated malware app used for test purposes – without the need to input administrative privileges.

That’s a little concerning. However, Microsoft seems to think its Defender app will work as expected.

While it’s possible to leverage the security-focused app to download malware from the internet, Microsoft maintains that its app will detect the malware as soon as it hits your download folder and take the steps to prevent it from damaging your files or hardware.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Microsoft confirmed: “Despite these reports, Microsoft Defender antivirus and Microsoft Defender ATP will still protect customers from malware. These programs detect malicious files downloaded to the system through the antivirus file download feature.”

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Microsoft has also confirmed that it’s not possible to use Windows Defender’s built-in download tool to save malware into the download folder of any other user with an account registered on the hardware, which is reassuring. And secondly, it’s not possible to escalate privileges with the tool. In a nutshell, that means malware cannot use Windows Defender to seize control of your system.

While that’s all reassuring, it’s still not ideal that the application preinstalled on over a billion Windows 10 devices worldwide designed to protect users from malicious software can be used to download malware.

Windows Defender download tool cannot be used for anything worse than any malware that successfully infects your PC would usually be permitted to do – like downloading another file through a web browser. And the built-in anti-virus should quarantine and stop some of the worst offenders before they do damage to your computer.

But there’s always the possibility that something comes along in the future that Windows Defender cannot detect. And that’s a little worrying. With any luck, Microsoft will completely close this functionality in the next update.

For the time being, Windows 10 users might want to take a look at some third-party antivirus solutions to keep themselves shielded against software nasties.

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