Microsoft Admits to One Kaspersky Allegation

Posted on June 21, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 25 Comments

Microsoft Admits to One Kaspersky Allegation

Microsoft has posted a public response, of sorts, to recent allegations by Kaspersky Lab. And in a surprising development, the software giant has actually admitted to one of the charges.

“Microsoft’s thousands of security engineers work day in and day out to provide ever-increasing levels of security, hardening the operating system at every layer of the stack and reducing the attack surface with new security features that help protect against and respond to a range of threats our customers face,” Microsoft Partner Director Rob Lefferts explains. “Our approach to security with Windows 10 includes both the end-to-end protections we build in natively, as well as support for the larger ecosystem of ISV and OEM partners to do their best work, providing added hardware and software security protections and services our mutual customers may choose.”

Lefferts’s post is quite lengthy, and it never directly mentions Kaspersky Lab. But that security firm has complained to antitrust officials in Europe and Russia that Microsoft is operating in an anti-competitive manner. And among the charges is that Windows 10 actually disables third party AV, like Kaspersky Lab’s, without cause.

“Windows 10 actually removes third-party AV during an upgrade,” I wrote back in early June. “After removing the third-party AV, Windows 10 tricks the user into thinking it’s still installed and working.”

Amazingly, Microsoft basically admits to this practice.

“We believe staying current is the most important thing in keeping customers safe and secure,” Lefferts says. “An important part of keeping customers current is ensuring the update process is a seamless, positive experience … because AV software can be deeply entwined within the operating system, we doubled down on our efforts to help AV vendors be compatible with the latest updates … For the small number of applications that still needed updating, we built a feature just for AV apps that would prompt the customer to install a new version of their AV app right after the update completed. To do this, we first temporarily disabled some parts of the AV software when the update began. We did this work in partnership with the AV partner to specify which versions of their software are compatible and where to direct customers after updating.”

The claim here, I believe, is that Kaspersky Lab’s AV solution is among the “small number” of AV apps that wasn’t able to get certified for the newest Windows 10 version. That is, it’s their fault this happened, not Microsoft’s.

And to be fair, Lefferts does, in fact, refute a number of Kaspersky Lab complaints. He notes that, “if AV software is protecting our customers, Windows Defender Antivirus will stay off,” for example. “If a customer does allow an antivirus application to expire, Windows Defender Antivirus is automatically turned on so that they are not left unprotected.”

More to the point, Microsoft believes that the work its done on security in Windows 10 is about ensuring that customers are safe, and that no design decisions were made to harm competitors.

“Windows will help customers make informed choices and respect user choice for security protection,” he says. “We will also continue to push the bar for customer protection.”


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