Monday, June 20, 2005

Media Center Edition vs. Virus's and Malware

A somewhat unscientific test to see if MCE PC's are inherently virus prone.

One of the loudest objections I get about MCE from peers in the system integration industry usually centers around virus's and malware. I am sure that at one point or another most of us have an infected PC that brought productivity to a halt. Their (valid) point is that underneath the simple UI of a MCE PC beats the heart of a Windows XP system and the inherent virus and malware risks.

My point is that PC's don?t get virus's, people give them virus's. A MCE PC connected to the internet through a router will not automatically get a virus. A user must download some software and give that PC the virus. One of the unique features of the MCE interface is that if you take the keyboard and mouse away a user can not easily get into the windows desktop and download any malicious software.

To prove my point I have a MCE 2005 edition in my Family Room that I have had in place since October 04. This MCE box has never had any anti virus or anti-spy ware software installed. For the most part this box just is a media only box and is not used as a standard PC. My entire family uses this box; it is on 24/7 and has been as reliable as a VCR. It is connected to our home network via cat 5 to a Linksys wireless router. It has never missed a recording and has never crashed.

My somewhat unscientific survey will be to run Lavasoft's Ad-aware SE and see if a MCE box that is not used as a PC has attracted any malware. My hypothesis is that since this PC, for the majority of the time is used just as a Media Center it will be malware free.

The screen capture below proves my hypothesis. As you can see from the screen capture below the only malicious software found in the system was from tracking cookies. A tracking cookie is used to track your movement across sites and do not generate pop-ups or other malicious actions. Compare this report to my 10 y/o daughters PC with hundreds of serious infections that need to be cleaned on a monthly basis.

Conclusion: Media Center PC's are not inherently malware prone. It takes user intervention to exit the MCE UI to the Windows desktop and download and install this malicious software. An MCE box with limited access to the Windows desktop will likely never get a infected with any malicious software.

To help solve this issue D-Tools has "MCE Lock" software in development that will password protect the Windows desktop but still allow the user to use a keyboard and mouse.


Ad-Aware screen capture

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