Kaspersky: Windows-bundled Defender is anticompetitive, Russia opens antitrust probe

The Russian FAS opened an antitrust probe after Eugene Kaspersky ripped into Microsoft for anticompetitive bundling of Defender in Windows 10

Kaspersky: Windows bundled Defender is anti-competitive
Credit: Elekes Andor

After Eugene Kaspersky, the founder of Kaspersky Lab, ripped into Microsoft for anticompetitive behavior in Windows 10, the Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) opened a case against Microsoft for “abusing dominance.”

Microsoft claimed to have a “long history of cooperation” with Kaspersky and that it is “committed to work in full compliance with Russian law.”

Yet, Russia has already decided to block Microsoft-owned LinkedIn, since the law requires Russian citizens’ personal data to be stored on servers within its country. In the past, Microsoft made LinkedIn censorship changes to cater to China, as opposed to being blocked like Google and Facebook. It remains to be seen if Microsoft will localize Russian users’ data as the country’s law demands. The New York Times added that it was unclear why LinkedIn was targeted, “rather than any other major social networking site,” but that is a “sign of growing tensions for American tech companies operating” in Russia.

Speaking of growing tensions, Kaspersky has “had enough” and roasted Microsoft toasty last week for anticompetitive bundling in Windows 10, namely the way the bundled Defender is Microsoft’s way of “squeezing independent developers out of the Windows ecosystem if it has its own application for this or that purpose.”

When upgrading, Windows 10 does have a habit of uninstalling users’ apps and replacing them with Microsoft-flavored versions. Even after selecting “Keep personal files and apps” during the upgrade process, third-party software can get axed—and that includes antivirus. Kaspersky wants Microsoft to knock off that behavior and stop “foisting its Defender on the user, which isn’t beneficial from the point of view of protection of a computer against cyber attacks.”

Kaspersky pointed out that upgrading to Windows 10 results in “incompatible security software” being deactivated and replaced with Defender. He lashed out at Microsoft, writing:

But what did it expect when independent developers were given all of one week before the release of the new version of the OS to make their software compatible? Even if software did manage to be compatible according to the initial check before the upgrade, weird things tended to happen and Defender would still take over.

This point was also hammered upon by the FAS, which claimed Microsoft “cut down significantly the period for adapting compatibility of antivirus software developed by third parties for the Windows 10 operational system: from 2 months to 6 calendar days.”

Kaspersky was irked about Microsoft’s use of a “big juicy Defender ‘Turn on’ button.” So, even if your security software is compatible, the pop-up window looks like a warning and urges users to enable Defender, which will uninstall any existing AV program.

windows defender warning box Eugene Kaspersky

He bashed the effectiveness of Defender, saying independent test labs find it to be “below average” and lacking functionality built into other anti-malware solutions.

Windows 10 allows only one antivirus solution to be installed on a PC—two if you turn on Defender, he explained. If you have an AV solution but install a trial version of security software, when the trial period is up, Windows doesn’t revert back to the first AV solution but “quietly turns off both AVs” and instead turns on Defender.

Under a heading of “the harmful consequences of greed” is the question: Who most benefits from the monopolization of cybersecurity market? Kaspersky said, cybercriminals, of course!

Kaspersky suggested all independent software developers band together and fight Microsoft.

“Users have the right to choose the best; freedom of choice enables the development of competition; and competition leads to technical progress. We intend to fight for such freedom, even if we have to do so alone,” he said.

After Kaspersky’s post made it sound like Microsoft is trying to push independent software vendors out of the market, FAS Deputy Head Anatoly Golomolzin said, “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 on the software market. Our task is to ensure equal conditions for all participants on this market.”

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