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Pressed By Antitrust Complaints, Microsoft Changes Third-Party Antivirus Policies

In June, Russian antivirus company filed an antitrust lawsuit in the European Union against Microsoft. Kaspersky has been frustrated for some time with what it called "underhanded tactics" from Microsoft that were meant to eliminate third-party antivirus competition on Windows.

At the time, Microsoft claimed that it was only trying to improve Windows security. Now, Microsoft seems to have changed its tune, and the company has made some concessions to help third-party antivirus software better integrate with Windows 10 and be more compatible with the latest updates.

Microsoft’s “Underhanded Tactics”

Kaspersky previously complained that Microsoft was using some questionable tactics to de-emphasize the importance of third-party antivirus programs on Windows, while encouraging users to rely on its own Windows Defender security tool.

The tactics included showing Windows as being secure only when using the Windows Defender tool, while portraying other antivirus software as unsafe.

Another claimed tactic was that Microsoft was previously allowing only one antivirus to run on the system. Therefore, if users had already enabled Windows Defender, it wasn’t possible to run a third-party antivirus, too. However, Microsoft eventually eliminated this requirement in Windows, after complaints from Kaspersky to the Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS).

Other unsolved issues about which Kaspersky complained included not giving antivirus companies enough time to make their software compatible with the latest Windows updates. Microsoft would then allegedly disable the incompatible antivirus software after a Windows update and obfuscate the third-party antivirus notifications, which ended up reducing these companies’ revenue.

Microsoft Changes Antivirus Policies

In a recent post, Microsoft claimed that it has been working closely with antivirus partners such as Kaspersky, and the recent discussions it has been having with them has led to some changes that will be implemented in the Windows 10 Fall Creators’ Update.

One of the changes includes working more closely with third-party antivirus companies to make their software compatible with the latest Windows update. Microsoft said that Windows customers should expect that the compatibility issues for their preferred third-party antivirus software should be resolved before receiving a new Windows update.

Microsoft will also increase the time its antivirus partners will have to review a new Windows update before it’s rolled out to users.

The company will also allow antivirus vendors to set their own notifications for subscription expiration, which should increase the antivirus vendors’ revenues.

Microsoft said it has also changed how users will be warned when an antivirus program has expired and no longer protects them. Until now, Windows would show a warning only once, which users could easily ignore. Starting with the Windows 10 Fall Creators’ Update, the warning will persist until users decide whether to renew their third-party antivirus subscription or stick to the free Windows Defender.

Microsoft said it appreciated the feedback Kaspersky and other antivirus partners gave it, although one could say these changes may have not happened unless Kaspersky filed not just the first antitrust lawsuit in Russia, but also the second one in the European Union.

What matters in the end is that users are the ones benefiting most from this back and forth between Microsoft and the antivirus companies. If user security suffered because Microsoft kept prioritizing its antivirus tool over the competition, then changes should have indeed been made.

However, if Windows users' security is weakened because of this catering to third-party antivirus vendors, then those changes would not be as welcome. In this case, the changes don’t seem to be affecting users negatively too much, and may in fact end up benefiting them in the long term if a strong competition is maintained between Microsoft’s own security solutions and those of the third-party antivirus providers.

  • kinggremlin
    Why would Microsoft intentionally try to hurt 3rd party anti-virus makers, when Windows Defender is free and generates no revenue for Microsoft? Microsoft gains absolutely nothing by having users use Defender. It's purpose is only basic protection for users too ignorant to install a more robust 3rd party app. I've always used 3rd party anti-virus software and never noticed MS pushing their own software or in any way discouraging me from using someone else's.
    Reply
  • Kennyy Evony
    You're missing the point. You have to think like a russian to understand what's going on.
    Reply
  • ChewieUK
    kinggremlin: I'm sure you mean 'why *did* Microsoft make these changes and hurt third party vendors?'
    I remember MS telling us that Defender wasn't supposed to be a front-line solution in the first place - despite it being a top-drawer antimalware product before they bought it, rebadged it, and left it to fall into failure.

    Mind you, Kaspersky's installations have been doing the same to third party on-demand malware scanners for years - and KIS/KAV still calls out FoolishIT's OS branding tool as a virus even now.
    Reply
  • shpankey
    This does not help users, this helps 3rd party virus spammers...

    "Microsoft said it has also changed how users will be warned when an antivirus program has expired and no longer protects them. Until now, Windows would show a warning only once, which users could easily ignore. Starting with the Windows 10 Fall Creators’ Update, the warning will persist until users decide whether to renew their third-party antivirus subscription or stick to the free Windows Defender."
    Reply
  • tom10167
    "Why would Microsoft intentionally try to hurt 3rd party anti-virus makers, when Windows Defender is free and generates no revenue for Microsoft? Microsoft gains absolutely nothing by having users use Defender. It's purpose is only basic protection for users too ignorant to install a more robust 3rd party app. I've always used 3rd party anti-virus software and never noticed MS pushing their own software or in any way discouraging me from using someone else's."

    How much did Netscape Navigator cost? 1Pass? Photobucket? Snapchat Today it's a common method to really screw everybody: Offer a great product for "free." Then, once userbase has reached critical mass and everyone is very comfortable with it, either force people to now pay to use the service, or just start injecting the mandatory updates with tons of unavoidable ads and a free program that generates no revenue is worth half a billion overnight.
    Reply
  • therogerwilco
    I actually enjoy Defender. Tons less spam, popups, and bluescreens from false positives on system files.
    Reply
  • shrapnel_indie
    <quote>...Microsoft would then allegedly disable the incompatible antivirus software after a Windows update and obfuscate the third-party antivirus notifications, ...</quote>

    You mean like it does with re-enabling things that you went out of your way to disable? Things that don't affect security but does affect data collection?


    You mean almost like what they did in the 90s? No Windows Certified seal for a product if the same product had an active version on a different platform?

    You mean like integrating what was stand-alone software they owned to a point where disabling it or attempting to remove it, harmed functionality beyond, and outside of, what said software was intended to do?
    Reply
  • kinggremlin
    20047894 said:
    How much did Netscape Navigator cost? 1Pass? Photobucket? Snapchat Today it's a common method to really screw everybody: Offer a great product for "free." Then, once userbase has reached critical mass and everyone is very comfortable with it, either force people to now pay to use the service, or just start injecting the mandatory updates with tons of unavoidable ads and a free program that generates no revenue is worth half a billion overnight.

    None of those are Microsoft products, so I don't see the relevance. I do remember retail versions of Netscape. When has MS ever started charging for a built in Windows utility that was free? If they were planning on doing that, built in antivirus would certainly not be the first choice.
    Reply
  • alextheblue
    Kaspersky likes to whine, but they had TONS of time to make their software compatible. From the day software firms had their hands on pre-release versions of Win10 (or even public previews!) until launch was quite a big stretch of time. But MS is trying to appease FAS, so they'll make changes that didn't really need to be made.
    Reply
  • beayn
    I work in IT and have never noticed the issues Kaspersky claim. If Windows is telling you that your PC is unsafe, it's because Kaspersky didn't properly integrate with Windows which ends up in reporting your PC isn't safe. Other AV programs have worked perfectly fine.

    The one thing I have noticed is Windows telling you there's a problem with your default programs and reverting them all back to MS Products.
    Reply