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Security Firm Launches Antitrust Complaint Against Microsoft and Windows 10

Security firm Kaspersky Lab is crying foul after accusing Microsoft of creating an environment in Windows 10 that puts competing security products at a disadvantage compared to the company's Windows Defender.

The Moscow-based company has filed an application with the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) of Russia and is preparing a similar application for the European Commission, a spokesperson said in an e-mail on Monday. Asked if the company had any plans to file complaints in the United States, the spokesperson said, "Any additional actions will be communicated when appropriate."

The antitrust spotlight shined brightly on Microsoft through the late 1990s and early 2000s, but Microsoft's consecutive misses on the search, smartphone and tablet markets, alongside the general declines in PC sales overall, have diminished its once fearsome reputation. Kaspersky Lab's high-profile chairman and CEO, Eugene Kaspersky, unveiled his company's campaign to bring Microsoft back to the attention of antitrust regulators in a lengthy blog post on Thursday.

"We think that Microsoft has been using its dominating position in the market of operating systems to create competitive advantages for its own product. The company is foisting its Defender on the user, which isn't beneficial from the point of view of protection of a computer against cyberattacks," Kaspersky wrote. "The company is also creating obstacles for companies to access the market, and infringes upon the interests of independent developers of security products."

Windows Defender is the built-in anti-virus (AV) protection that comes as part of Windows 10. In a statement on its application to the Russian FAS, Kaspersky Lab described two main problems with Windows 10.

"When a user migrates to Windows 10, and the current version of their antivirus software is not compatible with this operating system, the user is not informed in advance of the need to install a compatible version. Instead, without the explicit consent of the user, the antivirus software is removed and Windows Defender is switched on by default," the statement said. The statement continued, "Microsoft provides security vendors with new RTM Windows 10 builds several days before their official release, compared with the 2 months they gave for Windows 8 and Windows 7. Several days are not enough for developers to modify security solutions properly, to make them compatible and effective against all types of cyberthreats from the day of release, leaving users without the level of protection they have chosen and paid for."

In his blog, Kaspersky cataloged other complaints about the way Windows 10 handles third-party AV -- including warning pages showing that Windows Defender is turned off without sufficient notification that another AV solution is running, as well as policies that automatically turn on Defender if Windows finds two different AV solutions running at once.

The company is asking antitrust officials to force Microsoft to provide new versions and updates of Windows to security vendors in time to allow them to ensure compatibility with Windows 10, to inform users of the presence of incompatible software before the Windows upgrade, and to require that users always be asked for explicit approval before Windows Defender is enabled.

Microsoft declined to comment on Kaspersky's blog post or the Kaspersky Lab complaints.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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