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Microsoft Reacts To Kaspersky's Antitrust Complaints

Recently, the Russian antivirus company, Kaspersky, announced that it filed a complaint with the European Commission that Microsoft was abusing its dominance in the PC market to hurt antivirus companies (such as itself). Microsoft indirectly responded in a blog post talking about its partnerships with antivirus companies in general.

Kaspersky’s Complaints

Kaspersky’s main argument against Microsoft is that the company is using Windows to promote its own operating system over other antivirus solutions, often with "underhanded tactics."

Before Windows 8, Microsoft used to develop the Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) antivirus, which was a third-party program, just like any other antivirus solution. However, starting with Windows 8, Microsoft integrated its own antivirus into the operating system by upgrading its older “Windows Defender” anti-spyware solution with MSE's antivirus capabilities.

As the MSE seemed good enough to stop the majority of viruses, while silently doing its work behind the scenes, many people seemed content with it and stopped using other antivirus software. This scenario was unfavorable to Kaspersky and other antivirus companies. However, third-party antivirus companies could still claim a significantly higher rate of catching viruses in the wild.

According to Kaspersky, the real problems began when Microsoft started using questionable tactics such as:

  • Uninstalling existing antivirus programs when there was a new Windows update
  • Reducing the time it took to allow the developers to make their antiviruses compatible with the latest update
  • Changing notifications in a way that hurt third-party antivirus’ companies subscription numbers
  • Not allowing users to permanently deactivate Windows Defender anymore, thus potentially creating conflicts with other antivirus software

In a previous post, Kaspersky also mentioned that Microsoft was using questionable user interface tactics to make it look as if your PC was not secure just because Windows Defender wasn’t enabled, even if some other security solution was. However, Kaspersky said that Microsoft fixed this after it issued a complaint with the Russian Federal Antimonopoly Services.

Microsoft’s Reaction

Microsoft didn’t directly call out Kaspersky in its recent blog post, but the article seems to have been targeting Kaspersky’s complaints. Microsoft started by reminding us about the WannaCry ransomware attack and others like it that put all Windows PCs at risk. As such, the company said that it’s focusing on securing Windows from top-to-bottom on its own, while also allowing third-party security solution providers to further enhance that protection.

Microsoft added that its goal with Windows Defender has been to ensure that all Windows customers have antivirus protection at all times, whether they’ve purchased or downloaded another security solution or not.

In its recent blog post, the company stated the following:

Microsoft supports a rich ecosystem of security partners, each attacking malware and ransomware with diverse perspectives, and continues to work with security partners to support that. As the security landscape, PC industry, and customer needs continue to evolve, Microsoft will continue to work with security partners to ensure that the broad security industry does everything possible to keep customers safe.

Microsoft also said that it’s been working closely with third-party software providers to ensure that their programs are compatible with the latest Windows updates months ahead of time. This statement seems to directly contradict Kaspersky’s claim that sometimes they are given early access to the new updates only two weeks before the Windows update is released.

Perhaps the issue here is that they’re talking about different types of updates. Microsoft may be talking about major upgrades, such as the recent Creator’s Update, whereas Kaspersky may be talking about monthly patch bundles. Security patches can also cause other software, including antivirus programs, to stop working properly due to changes in how certain code behaves.

Microsoft also mentioned that its antivirus security is disabled when a third-party antivirus is running. However, Windows Defender will be re-enabled when the subscription for the third-party solution expires, to continue to protect users.

Avoiding Antitrust Investigations

As long as Microsoft doesn’t use underhanded tactics to eliminate the antivirus competition faster than it would have otherwise by simply continuing to make Windows more secure through various solutions, it should be able to stay clear from new antitrust investigations.

Microsoft got in trouble before for the Internet Explorer integration, and the European Union's solution was to force it to show users other browser options upon Windows installation. If Microsoft doesn’t stray too far away from a similar solution for the antivirus software, then it may not get in trouble again over antitrust issues. However, if some of Kaspersky’s accusations end up being true, then the European Commission could still open a new antitrust investigation against Microsoft.

  • cfenton
    There seems to be a big difference between the browser case and the anti-virus case. As far as I know, there's no one like Mozilla out there making free anti-virus software. Or, if they are, it isn't very popular. What would Microsoft reasonably offer up as a choice at installation? Maybe I'm wrong, but is any other company offering a truly free anti-virus solution? And I don't mean one that asks you several times a week to upgrade to the paid version and nags you about how much more secure you'd be if only you'd pay for more protection.
    Reply
  • falchard
    Could? Even if the claim wasn't true the EU will still open up an anti-trust claim against Microsoft and find them guilty. The EU is more than happy to rob the deep pockets of foreign software companies when they can.
    Reply
  • Joseph_206
    I'm sensing part of this is Microsoft wanting to rapidly iterate on Windows 10. Software seems broken more often after Windows update.

    "Changing notifications in a way that hurt third-party antivirus’ companies subscription numbers"

    I'm thinking popup windows saying "You have _____ days left to renew your subscription!"
    Reply
  • DerekA_C
    There is one that doesn't nag and is a very basic and completely free antivirus bit-defender free edition it is very minimal but has to have email registered and verified but lifetime free . However at this point with creator update and all my browsers having script and ad blockers win-defender works no fuss I only let in what I want seems pretty secure haven't had any issues. so yea why bother with third party anymore just more clutter to a clutter seems redundant.
    Reply
  • SockPuppet
    "The EU is more than happy to rob the deep pockets of foreign software companies when they can."

    Indeed. They're going after Google right now for $1B. Personally, if I were running Google I'd tell the EU to suck it. I double dog dare you to block me in Europe.
    Reply
  • renz496
    19843750 said:
    There is one that doesn't nag and is a very basic and completely free antivirus bit-defender free edition it is very minimal but has to have email registered and verified but lifetime free . However at this point with creator update and all my browsers having script and ad blockers win-defender works no fuss I only let in what I want seems pretty secure haven't had any issues. so yea why bother with third party anymore just more clutter to a clutter seems redundant.

    this might be true for AV software but i think the big implication is more on third party software in general. if MS get a free pass with this issue then what other initiatives will they do in the future in regards to third party software? imagine suddenly MS remove your Steam client (or any third party Game client like EA Origin and such) for whatever reason and all games must be played through MS own client or more extreme will only install game purchased using MS store?
    Reply
  • JonDol
    "Not allowing users to permanently deactivate Windows Defender anymore, thus potentially creating conflicts with other antivirus software"

    Now look who's talking: they forgot to mention how deep you have to go into the system to completely deactivate their own solution too when one debugs software and wants to rule out the anti virus/firewall. The IE antitrust issue mentioned here I'd say it's a weak excuse to racket Microsoft because it doesn't make efforts to fight ignorance: the lack of advertising for IE competition didn't prevent me of using Opera since 2000/2001... I bet no one is attacking the grocery on his door step for lacking to inform the customers : 'you know, 100 meters farther there is another grocery potentially selling cheaper and better quality products'...
    Reply
  • LORD_ORION
    Looking at my hidden icons... yep "Action needed" because I have 3rd party firewall.

    PS FU MS, I hope you lose bad.
    Reply
  • CKKwan
    MS, please do us a favor by removing the crappy Windows Defender. It had been writing to my SSD non-stop, more than 1TB in just 3 hours. When I only have 100GB of data (including the OS itself) on it. It is more dangerous than the Wannacry Ransomsware
    Reply
  • sykozis
    I still find this to be ridiculous and based on Kaspersky's complaint, I'm a bit curious as to whether or not they develop and release "malware" onto the web to gain sales. Or the Russian Gov't is mad cuz they can't steal more user data through Kaspersky....

    19842618 said:
    There seems to be a big difference between the browser case and the anti-virus case. As far as I know, there's no one like Mozilla out there making free anti-virus software. Or, if they are, it isn't very popular. What would Microsoft reasonably offer up as a choice at installation? Maybe I'm wrong, but is any other company offering a truly free anti-virus solution? And I don't mean one that asks you several times a week to upgrade to the paid version and nags you about how much more secure you'd be if only you'd pay for more protection.

    Sophos, BitDefender, Panda, Avira, Avast/AVG....all have free versions for consumers.
    Reply