Russian antivirus firm Kaspersky Lab accuses Microsoft of using its in-built Windows Defender to block rival security products.
Kaspersky says Microsoft isn’t giving third-party antivirus vendors enough time to make their products compatible with the latest versions of Windows 10 and when they are incompatible Microsoft inserts its own Windows Defender anti-malware program.
In a complaint filed with Russia’s competition regulator, the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS), Kaspersky says Microsoft has cut the compatibility testing window from two months for Windows 8 and Windows 7 to just six days in Windows 10.
One reason for the shorter timeframes may be that Microsoft decided to deliver new builds of Windows 10 more frequently than it has ever done in the past. For Windows 10 it introduced the so-called ‘fast’ and ‘slow’ ring to test new finished builds that it intended to release on a monthly basis.
Whatever the reason, the result is that Kaspersky antivirus is often incompatible with Windows 10 at the point users apply a Windows 10 update. When that occurs, Kaspersky says Windows will deactivate its antivirus and activate Windows Defender in its place.
FAS on Thursday opened a case into Microsoft’s alleged anti-competitive practices, accusing Microsoft of abusing its dominant position in the desktop market.
"Due to the fact that Microsoft itself is the developer of antivirus software Windows Defender, which is automatically activated if the third-party software has not had time to adapt to Windows 10, such actions lead to an unfair advantage for Microsoft in the software market. Our task [is] to ensure equal conditions for all market participants,” said deputy head of FAS, Anatoly Golomolzin.
The complaint could become another headache for Microsoft in Russia, where some government agencies, under orders from the Kremlin, have replaced Outlook and Exchange with local software.
Microsoft told CSO Australia that it has not received a formal notice from FAS.
“Microsoft Russia and Kaspersky Lab have a long history of cooperation in different areas. Microsoft is committed to work in full compliance with Russian law. The company hasn’t received an official notification from FAS. As soon as we get it, we will review it carefully,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement.
Kaspersky says it also intends to file a complaint with the European Commission. When contacted by CSO Australia it did not answer whether it would file a complaint with the US competition regulator.
The security firm’s founder, Eugene Kaspersky, aired his grievances in a lengthy blogpost titled, “That’s It. I’ve Had Enough!”, comparing his battle with Microsoft to that of David and Goliath.
“When you upgrade to Windows 10, Microsoft automatically and without any warning deactivates all ‘incompatible’ security software and in its place installs… you guessed it – its own Defender antivirus,” writes Kaspersky.
“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.”
Kaspersky outlines a number of other ways that Windows Defender replaces third-party antivirus, including allegedly concealing license expiration warnings and automatically installing Windows Defender if a trial period of a third-party product expires.
However, it could be argued, in the latter instance, that Microsoft is protecting the user by activating some form of malware defense.
“Microsoft is gradually squeezing independent developers out of the Windows ecosystem if it has its own application for this or that purpose,” says Kaspersky.