Kaspersky Alleges Microsoft's Windows Defender Is Anti-Competitive

The founder of anti-malware company Kaspersky Lab thinks that Microsoft is making it harder for security software vendors to get PC users to install their products on Windows 10.

Windows 10 Antivirus

Eugene Kaspersky, founder of security vendor Kaspersky Lab isn't happy with Microsoft's business practices and he wants the whole world to know about it. In a scathing public post, Kaspersky alleges that Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system makes it more difficult for his firm's antivirus software to be used by customers.

Kaspersky's claims are not falling on deaf ears either, as the Federal Antimonopoly Service of the Russian Federation is now investigating the situation for any potential wrongdoing.

"Since Microsoft itself develops antivirus software—Windows Defender that switches on automatically if third-party software fails to adapt to Windows 10 in due time, such actions lead to unreasonable advantages for Microsoft in the software market," Anatoly Golomolzin, Deputy Head of FAS stated. "Our task is to ensure equal conditions for all participants on this market."

Microsoft did not respond to a request for comment from eWEEK by press time. A Kaspersky Lab spokesperson did not directly respond to a question from eWEEK about what, if any response the firm has yet received from Microsoft about its complaint. The spokesperson only noted that the press will need to wait for a response from Microsoft.

Other antivirus vendors have remained largely quiet as well, eWEEK reached out to multiple antivirus vendors including Comodo, Trend Micro, Avast and Symantec and did not get any comments back by before this story was published. Kaspersky Lab's spokesperson noted that the company is not excluding the possibility of potentially working with other antivirus vendors in attempting to force concessions from Microsoft to make its system more open for the antivirus vendors.

The core of Kaspersky's complaint is relatively simple, he just wants consumers to have the ability to choose which antivirus software they want to run, without Microsoft pulling the rug out from under users. According to Kaspersky Lab, it wants to prohibit Microsoft from switching on its Windows Defender software by default without the explicit consent of the user.

Windows Defender is Microsoft's antivirus technology and first became publicly available as a free download for Windows XP in 2005. Over the years, Windows Defender has become a more capable product than its initial version and is now directly integrated 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," Kaspersky Lab stated in a press release. "Instead, without the explicit consent of the user, the antivirus software is removed and Windows Defender is switched on by default."

Kaspersky Lab wants Microsoft to inform users, prior to updating to Windows 10, that third-party antivirus technologies need to be updated to versions that are compatible with Windows 10.

Additionally, Kaspersky Lab isn't happy that Microsoft now only provides security vendors with new Windows 10 builds several days before a release, which doesn't provide enough time for antivirus vendors to make adjustments. According to Kaspersky Lab, Microsoft used to provide two months lead time for changes with Windows 7 and 8. The security vendor would like to see Microsoft provide at least two week lead time before a new Windows 10 build.

"We think that Microsoft has been using its dominating position in the market of operating systems to create competitive advantages for its own product," Eugene Kaspersky alleged in his blog post. "The company is foisting its Defender on the user, which isn’t beneficial from the point of view of protection of a computer against cyber-attacks."

Kaspersky notes that his company has had a long-term successful partnership with Microsoft, but only decided on going public about the issue after direct negotiations didn't yield positive results.

After being in market for a decade with Windows Defender, it's actually somewhat surprising that it has taken this long for an antivirus vendor to complain about anti-competitive behavior. The challenge now is that Windows Defender wasn't always directly integrated and Microsoft didn't used to force users to take some action to avoid accepting Defender as the default antivirus app on their desktop.

In some respects, the claims made by Kaspersky are reminiscent of claims about browser bundling made by Netscape and others back in 2003. Microsoft ended up settling with AOL, for $750 million in 2003 over the browser issues, though in Europe the issue was handled a bit differently.

Microsoft since 2007 has had to provide its users in Europe with a browser choice screen, as part of any new Windows installation. The same kind of choice screen has not been an issue for antivirus software although this could come under discussion by regulators in Europe or the U.S. in the years ahead.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.