Antivirus Vendors Are Watching Kaspersky, Microsoft Battle Closely

As Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab looks to take on Microsoft for alleged antitrust violations, some other antivirus vendors say they are watching the situation closely to see if they also need to step in.

Late last week, Kaspersky Lab came out swinging against Microsoft, saying that its latest operating system updates allegedly prioritize Windows Defender over third-party antivirus vendors in a way that shuts them out illegally. In a blog post, CEO Eugene Kaspersky accused Microsoft of "gradually squeezing independent developers out of the Windows ecosystem," something he said was to the detriment of customers who want more effective security solutions.

On Friday, the Russian antitrust authority opened an investigation into the issue, saying it will look into whether Microsoft violated country laws that prohibit companies from using their market position to prevent competitors from operating against them.

[Related: Kaspersky Takes Aim At Microsoft, Alleging Antitrust Violations Around Anti-Virus And Windows 10 Updates]

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In an email to CRN, Symantec General Manager and Executive Vice President, Norton, Fran Rosch said the company has been watching the evolving situation with Microsoft very closely.

’We’ve been looking into this situation for months and what we’re seeing is concerning for consumer choice and protection," Rosch said.

Rosch said customers are demanding best-in-class security solutions and should be allowed the freedom of choice when it comes to selecting vendors.

"We believe that consumers should have the flexibility to freely choose their security solutions. Norton is taking action to ensure our customers continue to have the best protection and security performance available," Rosch said.

In an email to CRN, Sophos Senior Vice President, Enduser Security Group and Network Security Group Dan Schiappa said that U.K.-based Sophos, which sells anti-virus solutions among many other products, will be watching the situation between Kaspersky and Microsoft closely.

’I am sure there is more to this story than meets the eye – on both sides. We will watch with interest," Schiappa said.

ESET and Intel Security (soon to be McAfee) declined to comment.

AVG (now part of Avast) did not provide a statement.

CRN also reached out to Trend Micro, but did not receive a response.

Microsoft did not reply to CRN requests for comment.

Michael Knight, president and CTO at Encore Technology Group, a Greenville, S.C.-based Kaspersky and Microsoft partner, said he isn't surprised by vendors waiting to see how the situation plays out. He said he expects to see a shift in rhetoric from the major AV vendors if Microsoft doesn't change its tune around welcoming third-party antivirus solutions into its operating system.

"I think they are letting a maverick test the waters for them to see what Microsoft does. If they feel no movement will happen I fully expect them to pile on," Knight said.

While Microsoft has a history of trying to block third-party vendors out of some areas of its operating system in favor of its own offerings, Knight said that is not a good approach for the vendor to take around security. He urges Microsoft to take a more inclusive approach as it has with its web browser and Office 365 offerings.

"If their approach is going to be to monopolize that, I know of very few companies that will put their trust solely in Microsoft, for good reasons. There will be some significant backlash where people will refuse to upgrade and will look at other options," Knight said.

Instead, Knight said there is a big opportunity for Microsoft to step up as a leader in building the ecosystem of vetted third-party partners for security, similar to its hardware compatibility list.

"I do not believe it is to their benefit to basically discourage integration from other platforms … I think they need to review their stance on endpoint security providers and the integration with them to where they can create a great ecosystem for them," Knight said.