Microsoft has been accused of being unfair to security firms who make antivirus products, by engaging in anti-competitive practices to muscle out third-party solutions in favour of its own integrated malware-combating measures in Windows.
This criticism has been levelled by Eugene Kaspersky, CEO of Kaspersky Lab which makes one of the leading third-party security suites.
Kaspersky complains that Windows 10 has a nasty habit of changing settings back to defaults, or uninstalling the user’s apps, replacing them with Microsoft’s own solutions in some cases.
And, he notes, when users upgrade to Windows 10, Microsoft automatically deactivates incompatible antivirus software in favour of running its own Windows Defender solution – with security firms not given nearly enough time to ensure software compatibility.
Of course, Windows Defender simply kicks in as a default option to ensure that the user has some form of protection rather than none, if an existing AV product has been deactivated.
So the argument, really, boils down to ensuring compatibility – or that firms have enough time to do so, with Kaspersky asserting that they don’t, and that Microsoft engages in other practices to try and shoulder the competition aside.
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For example, he writes: “Even if [antivirus] software did manage to be compatible according to the initial check before the [Windows 10] upgrade, weird things tended to happen and Defender would still take over.”
And he observed that even if a third-party security suite is running successfully post-upgrade, Windows brings up a big pop-up which looks like a warning – as opposed to an informative dialogue – that Defender isn’t running, and has a large ‘Turn on’ button which users may be tempted to click in the belief that they have to do so to keep themselves safe.
In his lengthy post, Kaspersky goes on to detail a number of other ways in which he believes Microsoft is subtly deflecting users towards its own product rather than third-party antivirus efforts. And furthermore that Defender is a poor solution compared to the latter (and it’s certainly far from the best AV offering, as the independent testing labs have proven; although it's getting better).
The upshot? He concludes: “[Microsoft] is foisting its Defender on the user, which isn’t beneficial from the point of view of protection of a computer against cyberattacks. The company is also creating obstacles for companies to access the market, and infringes upon the interests of independent developers of security products.”
Thus he has been in touch with regulators in the EU and Russia insisting that Microsoft needs to “cease its violation of anti-competition legislation”.
And he argues that Microsoft must explicitly inform users about incompatible software before an upgrade, and also provide new versions of Windows to software developers with plenty of time to allow them to ensure compatibility.
Although the latter point hasn’t been particularly well taken in the arguments we’ve seen about this across the net, in terms of whether this might mean a delay for users getting their hands on a new version.
At any rate, this has certainly provoked quite some reaction, and it’ll be interesting to see what comments, if any, Microsoft will have in response.