Microsoft has begun beta testing updates to two of its leading security products, Forefront Endpoint Protection (FEP) 2010 for enterprise security and the free Security Essentials for consumers and small businesses.

Details of the new versions -- which sport a number of enhancements, such as FEP's new management capabilities for enterprise administrators -- came via postings to two separate Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) blogs on Tuesday.

"Today the team delivered the anticipated Forefront Endpoint Protection 2010 public beta to customers. The successor of Forefront Client Security is built on System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) 2007 R2 [Release 2], allowing customers to use their existing client management infrastructure to deploy and manage endpoint protection," said a post to the Forefront Team blog by a Microsoft spokesperson Tuesday.

Among the features coming in FEP 2010, according to the blog post, are a new antivirus engine, new behavioral threat detection to protect against zero-day attacks, and Windows Firewall management, which checks that the firewall is working properly and provides improved management capabilities.

Microsoft has not yet announced pricing or licensing terms. However, the blog post did say that FEP 2010 is due out in the fourth quarter. Interested parties can download the beta here.

The move continues recent efforts by Microsoft to strengthen and enhance its lineup of enterprise-grade security software. In May, the software giant shipped two new IT security products aimed at making life easier for systems administrators, Forefront Protection 2010 for SharePoint and Active Directory Federation Services 2.0. Microsoft has also begun beta testing the next release of its free Security Essentials product, according to a post to the Windows Team blog by company spokesperson Brandon LeBlanc.

"Security Essentials was first released in September 2009 and is our award-winning, no-cost, lightweight anti-malware service. It’s designed to help address the ongoing security needs of PCs running genuine Windows -- helping keep people protected from viruses, spyware, and other malicious software," LeBlanc added.

The new edition of Microsoft Security Essentials adds a new anti-malware engine, as well as tighter integration with the Windows Firewall and with Internet Explorer in order to block Web-based attacks. Additionally, Microsoft has also built network protection into the next release of Security Essentials.

The Microsoft Security Essentials beta is available through the company's Connect page.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.