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MS Readies Defender Name Change


Eagle-eyed investigators digging into the 20H1 Insider Preview (Build 18941.1001 as I write this post) are noticing some Defender nomenclature changes. In the past, the term “Windows” has usually preceded Defender as MS labels and talks about its built-in antimalware and software protection package. But if you take a look at the two snippets from the Local Group Policy Editor, changes are clearly afoot. With 1903/Build 18362.239 at the left and 20H1/Build 18941.1001 at the right the word “Microsoft” replaces “Windows” as it precedes “Defender.”

MS Readies Defender Name Change.gpedit-grabs

The old names appear left and the new ones right, where we see “Microsoft” replace “Windows.” What gives?

MS Readies Defender Name Change, to What End?

A July 22 article at Thurrott.com helps shed some light on what’s going on here, however gradually. It observes that in March “Microsoft renamed Windows Defender ATP (Advanced Threat Protection) to Microsoft Defender ATP.” Because the company made that technology available on Macintosh PCs (and MacOS) it’s understandable why they’d make that switch.

This more recent name change showed up for Defender Antivirus and Defender Exploit Guard in gpedit.msc running under the very latest 20H1 (Built 18941). Thurrott’s writer (Mehedi Hassan) speculates that this “same branding could be coming to Windows Defender everywhere.” That said in Settings → Update & Security → Windows Security, the language therein still refers to Windows Defender Firewall. On the other hand, the “Protection Updates” window uses the Microsoft Defender Antivirus terminology:

MS Readies Defender Name Change.defupdates

As to what all this means, one must speculate that Microsoft has further plans to offer Defender-based protection to other operating systems. We already know of at least one MacOs variant for ATP. There could easily be others, and perhaps iOS variants as well. And with Microsoft’s increasingly large investment in open computing and Linux, it’s not inconceivable that they may stake out a digital presence in that world as well. Time will tell, but the terminology at least opens those possibilities.

Author: Ed Tittel

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran. He’s a Princeton and multiple University of Texas graduate who’s worked in IT since 1981 when he started his first programming job. Over the past three decades he’s also worked as a manager, technical evangelist, consultant, trainer, and an expert witness. See his professional bio for all the details.

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