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Kaspersky Hits Microsoft with Antitrust Complaints in EU

Security firm Kaspersky Lab has formally filed antitrust complaints against Microsoft with the German Federal Cartel Office and the European Commission, the company said Tuesday.

According to Kaspersky, Microsoft has been using its Windows 10 operating system market dominance to gain unfair competitive advantage in the security software space, favoring its Windows Defender solution over other anti-malware software products. Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab had filed similar complaints with Russia's Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) back in November.

Last month, Eugene Kaspersky, chairman and CEO at Kaspersky Lab, had indicated that the FAS complaints would be continuing even though Microsoft had addressed some matters with Windows 10 version 1703, the so-called "creators update." However, he also indicated that Kaspersky Lab still would be filing a complaint with the European Commission.

Specifically, Kaspersky Lab is complaining that Windows 10 creates obstacles for competing software security solutions and pushes users toward using Microsoft's built-in Windows Defender anti-malware software. As a consequence, user choice is limited. It leads to financial losses for users and software makers, Kaspersky Lab's announcement claimed.

In addition, Microsoft's faster update release pace with Windows 10 doesn't provide sufficient time for software vendors to update their products compared with Microsoft's past Windows release-to-manufacturing (RTM) approach. Eugene Kaspersky, in a separate blog post Tuesday, said that vendors now have just "a couple of weeks" to address RTM releases prior to public release, a practice that's associated with Windows 10. Previously, they had a couple of months to establish compatibility and fix flaws, including Windows flaws, he contended.

Eugene Kaspersky also complained that Windows 10 will delete the drivers of anti-malware software if it's deemed incompatible, and it will switch on Windows Defender in its place, with scant notification to end users. In addition, Microsoft personnel have suggested that users should be "kicking out the independent anti-virus" to use Windows Defender instead. Even Microsoft's technical support pages now typically advise users to remove non-Microsoft anti-malware products in "any unclear situation," Kaspersky added.

According to Kaspersky Lab, Microsoft's Windows Defender can't be removed from Windows 10, at least by consumers. Windows Defender can be switched off from the commercial version of Windows 10, and it can be deleted from Windows Server, according to the company.

Early on, Microsoft had described the Windows 10 "anniversary update" (version 1607) as having a Windows Defender"Limited Periodic Scanning" capability, which suggested that Windows Defender could coexist with alternative vendor anti-malware solutions. It's unclear if this feature actually became part of the anniversary update release in August, though. Microsoft's list of Windows 10 version 1607 features doesn't include Limited Periodic Scanning, for instance.

"The limited periodic scanning functionality did make it into the final Anniversary Update release + beyond," a Microsoft spokesperson clarified.

In a released statement via e-mail, Microsoft suggested its motivation has been to protect Windows 10 users.

"Microsoft's primary objective is to keep customers protected and we are confident that the security features of Windows 10 comply with competition laws," a Microsoft spokesperson stated, via e-mail.

Microsoft also claims it has tried to meet with Kaspersky Lab executives on the matter.

"We're always interested in feedback from other companies and we engage deeply with anti-malware vendors and have taken a number of steps to address their feedback," the spokesperson added. "We reached out directly to Kaspersky a number of months ago offering to meet directly at an executive level to better understand their concerns, but that meeting has not yet taken place."

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.