Microsoft originally introduced Defender back in 2006. The app has focused solely on device vulnerabilities ever since, scanning computers with Windows 7, Windows Vista, and newer operating systems for spyware. Defender is still built into Windows operating systems free of charge, but users who pay for Microsoft 365—the subscription service offering access to Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, and other classic Microsoft productivity apps—can now opt into identity theft monitoring for no extra cost.
Microsoft partnered with Experian to supply the new feature. Experian allows Defender to detect and track “any identifying information on the internet, the dark web, and less common sources like file sharing, chat rooms, and many other places.” When it detects a threat to information from any of 64 categories (passwords, credit card details, Social Security numbers, and more), Defender alerts the user to the exact information being exposed, as well as how the breach occurred in the first place. This allows the user to make a more informed decision about next steps.
Defender aims to help users tackle the aftermath, too. When a user’s personal information is compromised, Defender displays contextual recommendations regarding corrective action. It also helps the user understand the risks associated with each type of exposure. (After all, an email vulnerability produces far different outcomes than an attempt at medical identity theft.) For those who struggle to take action on their own, Defender offers a 24-hour team of “restoration specialists” who can guide users through next steps or even take action on their behalf.
Of course, a loss of privacy isn’t the only reason identity theft stings—there’s often some form of financial loss, too. Microsoft says 365 subscribers who experience identity theft will be reimbursed up to $1 million for the costs of restoring their identity (i.e. legal fees) as well as $100,000 for lost funds.
How much protection a 365 subscriber receives depends on their subscription tier. Those who subscribe to Microsoft 365 Personal receive monitoring for one person and up to five devices; those with the Family tier receive monitoring for five people, each with up to five devices. (Since Defender was built for individuals and families and business tiers have their own security benefits, businesses that use 365 don’t receive Defender access at all.) Users have to enable the feature within Defender to receive identity theft monitoring.