Kaspersky Lab files antitrust complaint against Microsoft

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Kaspersky Lab has filed a pair of antitrust complaints against Microsoft, alleging that Microsoft is using its dominant position in the operating system segment to promote its own security software at the expense of rivals.

Kaspersky Lab has filed complaints with the European Commission and the German Federal Cartel Office claiming that Microsoft is abusing its position to promote Windows Defender using questionable methods.

In a blog post, Kaspersky Lab founder Eugene Kaspersky detailed a series of complaints based on the operation of Windows Defender and Windows 10 itself.

He noted that Windows Defender is hardwired into all versions of Windows 10 for home users and is impossible to turn off completely or delete. Kaspersky also complained that when attempting to install a third-party security solution, users are presented with the notification asking if they wish to run the program and warning that users should “only run programs that come from publishers you trust”.

Antivirus designers are also prohibited from using their own interfaces to warn users when licences are about to expire, requiring them from using the Action Centre within the OS instead, he said.

In addition, when upgrading to or updating Windows 10 the OS disables currently running antivirus software and turns on Windows Defender, only giving users a brief, easily missed message that this has taken place. After this, despite being disabled the antivirus continues to show up in a list of installed programs, Kaspersky said.

“All in all, the Disappearing Act was designed so that users don’t return to their independent AV, and stay in blissful ignorance as to what’s actually happened,” he said.

Microsoft has also reduced to merely “a couple of weeks” the time developers have to update their software for each new update of Windows, whereas ideally independent developers need two months to complete the fine-tuning before the release of the Windows update.

“Accordingly, we and all other developers need to rush to ensure compatibility before the public launch of the OS,” he said.

“And software development should really never be rushed — especially when it’s antivirus and users’ security is at stake: the potential for difficulties and risks goes up — but it could easily be avoided if the final version of the OS were simply delivered with sufficient time for ensuring compatibility.”

Kaspersky said it’s “difficult to believe” that all these actions were unintentional. “It’s plain as day for us that all the measures are taken deliberately to push its own solution, and by doing so impeding users from being able to make their own informed decisions regarding AV,” he said.

He added that Microsoft support has reportedly been pushing the stance that third-party antivirus products are incompatible with Windows 10, or that they are superfluous — despite tests indicating that Windows Defender has a lower detection rate and slower performance than independent products.

“We want Microsoft to stop misleading and misinforming our — and not only our — users. We want to see all security solutions being able to work on the Windows platform on a level playing field. And we want to see users being able to decide for themselves what they want and consider important to them,” Kaspersky wrote.

“And remember: the only folks who gain unequivocally if there is a monopoly in the security products market are cybercriminals. They’d love nothing more than to be able to concentrate on trying to out-smart the single security solution of a monopolist.”

Kaspersky Lab had already filed an antitrust complaint in Russia last year, and Microsoft agreed to address some of the issues outlined in that complaint before the Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service handed down its decision.

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