Kaspersky Calls Out Microsoft For Anticompetitive And Boorish Antivirus Tactics With Windows 10
Cybersecurity expert Eugene Kaspersky just channeled his inner Howard Beale to let Microsoft know he's mad as hell and isn't going to take it anymore. If that reference is too old, we can kick things up a decade to Twisted Sister, as all that's missing from his strongly worded and scathing blog post calling out Microsoft for unfairly favoring its own Defender antivirus software over third-party solutions is the 1980s band's hit song playing in the background.
While Eugene himself doesn't bring this up, there are quite a few parallels between the song "We're Not Gonna Take It" and his message to Microsoft. Let's start with the very first verse following the opening chorus.
We've got the right to choose and
There ain't no way we'll lose it.
This is our life, this is our song.
We'll fight a 1,000 legions,
Don't pick our destiny 'cause
You don't know us, you don't belong.
Kaspersky's rant sends the same message to Microsoft, just with a lot more words. He begins by calling out the Redmond giant for its walled garden approach to Windows 10, something that Epic Games founder Tim Sweeney has raged against on more than one occasion, though his real beef is that Windows 10 tries everything it can to kick third-party AV programs to the curb.
"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. 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?," Kaspersky laments. "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's issues with Windows 10 run far deeper than its behavior during an initial upgrade. He points out that even when users already have a compatible AV program installed, a pop-up window appears warning users that Defender is turned off. This is accompanied by a "big juicy" button to turn Defender back on, which Eugene surmise people are apt to press under the assumption that since it's from Microsoft, it must be good.
"In fact, pressing the big juicy button will also deactivate your existing AV. But a user only gets to find this out from a tiny text in a pop-up window (and you need to know how to get that window to pop-up)," Kaspersky explains.
It gets worse. Kaspersky says Microsoft limited the possibility of third-party developers to warn users when their licenses are expiring during the first three days after expiration. The only available warning gets buried in a Windows Security Center notification. Kaspersky says this is crucial because that three-day period is when a significant number of users end up extending their AV licenses. If a user forgets, which Microsoft makes it easy to do, the third-party AV software is deactivated and Defender gets turned back on.
Yet another gripe of Kaspersky's is that Microsoft limits the number of AV programs that can be running in Windows 10, but exempts Defender from that limitation.
"Let’s say you’ve an independent AV. You intentionally—or not (e.g., with bundled software)—install a trial version of a different AV, but forget to delete it or purchase a license for it. When the trial period is up, Windows quietly turns off both AVs, and—you guessed it—turns on Defender!," Kaspersky adds.
Kaspersky's last point is that all of these mechanisms in Windows 10 comes at the expense of superior AV programs. This brings us to another verse in Twisted Sister's song.
Oh you're so condescending,Kaspersky notes that testing by independent labs show Defender is a "below average" AV product that isn't as good at detecting malware as the competition, and "noticeably lags behind" in terms of features—Defender lacks parental controls, a built-in VPN, webcam protection, a password manager, exploit protection, and many other elements that are included in third-party programs.
Your goal is never ending,
We don't want nothin', not a thing from you.
Your life is trite and jaded,
Boring and confiscated,
If that's your best, your best won't do.
Source: AV-Comparatives (PDF)
"Microsoft is acting against the interests of users since a lot of its products are of inferior quality," Kaspersky says.
Finally, Kaspersky accuses Microsoft of having an ulterior motive in pushing Defender. He says it's not for the added security, but that after multiple failed efforts (MSAV, OneCare, Security Essentials, ForeFront), Microsoft's investors are getting antsy.
"So Microsoft, in its desperation, decides it needs to get to the top of AV-Everest—AVerest—by any means necessary, including with alarming pop-up windows. In doing so, users get protection markedly below the industry standard. Great job, Microsoft," Kaspersky says.
According to Kaspersky, his sentiment is one that is felt throughout the security industry and voiced in inner circles, but most are afraid to any anything publicly. Hence his long and harsh blog post raking Microsoft over the coals.