Windows Defender at risk of antitrust for Windows 8?

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | February 21, 2012 - 01:21 AM |
Tagged: antivirus, windows 8

Imagine if it were illegal for a dominant homebuilder to sell a house with locks on the door to be fair to the market of locksmiths?

The legality of Microsoft’s planned upgrades to its Windows Defender security suite has been questioned in an article up at ZDNet Asia. While the article itself is very correct in its analysis of the situation it does implicitly ask at what point a market should be obsolete.

Does it really protect consumers to intentionally unbundle security from a core application? Is it better to unbundle security to promote an industry worth of companies with products designed to successfully do little more than alert you when a breach has occurred?

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Industry status - Not Protected

Despite the wording of the above three paragraphs, the answer actually is not simple. There is a lot of merit to disallowing the bundling of internal security applications and protect the antivirus industry.

Ponder this, what if Microsoft’s system was really bad? Would promoting competition ultimately drive for a stronger and more secure product in the end? Or alternatively, would the pressure from the attackers themselves be sufficient competition to not need to protect antivirus companies?

It really is an interesting problem when you look into it. What do you think? The comments await, and registration is not required to voice your opinion.

Source: ZDNet Asia

February 21, 2012 | 02:50 AM - Posted by Veer (not verified)

In the early days, Microsoft never bothered with security, this resulted in companies taking up the slack and creating an industry around a need, as most industries do. If microsoft had integrated an Antimalware app (AM) into the core of the OS from the start, 3rd party AMs would have still sprung up, just not in the majority we see today. Even OSX which has a AM of sorts built into the core OS still has 3rd party AM apps available, because the integrated AM isn't exactly the greatest.

MSE/Defender being unbundled is a good thing for now. Given its ranking, i think its perfectly fine to leave it unbundled. At this point integrating it would be like poking the hornet's nest, but the main thing is msoft has their foot in the door.

Later on they could integrate it fully and put in a switch for users to turn it off if they want to install another AM app.

February 21, 2012 | 03:00 AM - Posted by Scott Michaud

Cool, nice opinion from the technical perspective of it.

February 23, 2012 | 12:48 AM - Posted by Veer (not verified)

Additional point, with the architectural changes in Windows 8, the need for an antimalware (AM)is rendered moot (once you lock the system down in metro mode)

Microsoft makes one of the most highly regarded Enterprise Grade Security Systems on the market (Forefront)and that same tech is used in MSE.

They have the capability to make a better AV than anyone else, but by snuffing out choice, they eliminate one of the strongest arguments TO use Windows.

February 21, 2012 | 07:00 AM - Posted by dagamer34 (not verified)

So Microsoft is supposed to sell a purposefully insecure product? That doesn't pass the smell test.

February 21, 2012 | 09:08 AM - Posted by dragosmp (not verified)

To continue the analogy "a house with no locks", I would ask this question: what if the house is sold with a set of poor quality locks? Most users are unsophisticated in tech and they might get a false sense of security with having a lock that after all isn't quite bulletproof.
The state of AV protection for off the shelf PCs today is in such a poor state. As the geek of the family I see all to often PCs with expired trial-based AVs, like probably all of you reading this article. Trial AVs are locks that self destruct after 2 months and leave the front door wide open! How is that any better?

Upon first boot to have a menu like the European browser ballot screen in which the user chooses between MSE and other options. Most will say "I'll just get the free one" not the best one, but even this is miles better than having none at all.

March 2, 2012 | 07:24 AM - Posted by DIYChamp (not verified)

I agree with dragosmp.

Most households these days are considered 'computer-literate' due to pre-built Windows-based retail computers becoming more and more 'one-click' user-friendly and being aided somewhat by the peer-pressure of social networking. Unfortunately, these same households have no idea about security and can't seem to grasp the seriousness of proper computer protection, AM software and best practices.

My vote would be for Windows Defender to be included and turned on by default. Safety and protection should be paramount.

February 21, 2012 | 12:30 PM - Posted by Mangix (not verified)

This is pretty ridiculous and reminds me of what happened with the whole PatchGuard fiasco. Microsoft introduced a feature in 64-bit versions of Windows and A/V companies got all up in arms. Several years later? Silence. Assuming this doesn't get unbundled, the same thing will happen. As German philosopher Hegel once said "What we learn from history is that we don't learn from history."

I love how everyone keeps saying Microsoft should/shouldn't do X so they don't mess up. One example is this but another one is Internet Explorer in the late 90s. Isn't this just a sugarcoated way of creating moral hazard? Let Microsoft screw up and learn from its mistakes is what I say. Because if they don't, they're out of business.

February 21, 2012 | 06:55 PM - Posted by Eric (not verified)

This is insane, reading alot of good comments and heres my 2 cents, Microsoft will not do a better job than Norton/Macafee/AVG... therefore those companies will still exist and dare I say they may actually have to work harder?! Now the companies that provide paid services will have to stand up to the "free"(included in the cost of buying windows) Microsoft version. They are really asking us to pay $150 for a mildly upgraded version of our operating system and telling us to accept even less product than we are paying for. If you goto McDonald's today tell them you want to pay 8 bucks for just your Big Mac because you dont want fries or a drink but should have to pay for it anyways. If industries want to survive its not because the government deemed it viable its because those companies had the most competitive product in an area that had a need for said product! This is my ripping my hair out k thx

February 22, 2012 | 10:37 AM - Posted by Troy (not verified)

Interesting comments above.
I agree with most and have to make a prediction.
MS will not bundle but not because of the anticompetativeness it may introduce into the industry but because it will inevitibly bring unwanted attention (attacks) to the app and os, mmm maybe thats the thing with predictions somtimes they`re wrong. Maybe they aim to soke up more security companies and push for it with all they`ve got which is a hell of a lot. I think this maybe there longterm aim good luck to them i say but IMHO it should be a user choice to either turn it on\off or install it. Choice is always better than no choice yes?

February 22, 2012 | 12:07 PM - Posted by shellscriptz

It's their software. Let them do with it what they please. Antitrust Schmantistrust. If those other companies can't compete, maybe it's because they either have an inferior product or they need to approach the issue from another perspective.

Look at a small company that is jumping into the competition late in the game, malwarebyte's antimalware. They don't even have an operable enterprise solution yet, however working in the antimalware industry, I would contend that they have they strongest scan on demand software there is. It catches viruses that most others cannot. Take a look at avast and kaspersky with their neat scan on demand and FREE tools, tdsskiller and aswclear. Check out neat x86 tools like root repeal and gmer. Now if these awesome fixit tools cost money with premium branding on them and an "ease of use" scenario (i.e. big ass FIX button for newbs), then we might have some true competition brewing that can give Microsoft a run for its money and challenge it to improve windows defender even further.

February 23, 2012 | 06:26 AM - Posted by Lorenz Gude (not verified)

If they had windows in the 40s we would see lots of B grade movies with lines like: 'Der Vindows bunker ist much more comfortable mit der MSE, Mein Fuhrer!!" Before MSE I ran AVG Free and the Zone Alarm firewall (I liked to monitor outgoing connections for new requests from strange programs as an early warning system) for years on XP and had very little trouble. When MSE arrived I switched and been very happy. It has found and fixed maybe half a dozen viruses in the past few years and none in a good while and is way more unobtrusive than even AVG. I understand that I don't need an outgoing firewall so I just use Windows firewall and MSE. I really dislike some of the paid AV applications because they are obtrusive, seem to affect performance and then want money. As to bundling, I hope they don't because I agree with those who think that the AV companies will make an issue of it. Just keep making it available for free. Security should have been part of Windows much earlier, but their mistake is history and I think the best way is to stick to the current policy of offering a good fix free to those who want it.

February 23, 2012 | 09:27 AM - Posted by Somar (not verified)

I think the issue is not, and will not be, whether Windows bundles a given product with their OS. What will be the issue, and what was the issue with Internet Explorer back in the day, is that they have a history of not allowing users to disable said product.

As long as they're giving the option to remove Windows Defender to users, so that they can replace it with a solution of their choice, then it's not a problem.

The Internet Explorer analogy was like a homebuilder who made a home that had window panes that were incapable of being replaced. If you wanted new windows, you could put a second set OVER your first set, but you could never take the first set out without entirely tearing down the house.

February 28, 2012 | 06:59 PM - Posted by Eric (not verified)

A home windows analogy for a windows defender problem, well played sir... well played...

February 26, 2012 | 04:39 PM - Posted by berserker29 (not verified)

My problem is this: Anyone who has ever seen a heist movie knows that, almost invariably, the thieves get whatever they come for and get out. There are two reasons for this: First is that the movie would be pathetically boring if they got caught in the first 5 minutes, and second - because they know what to expect.

Laser, weight, sonic sensors, anything can be avoided once they know it's there.

That's why Windows gets viruses in the first place, it's not like it wasn't designed to be secure - it just fails because hackers already know that it's Windows, and therefore know how to get around it.

In the same way, the moment Defender/MSE becomes default, hackers will write viruses to get around them, because it's unlikely that any given Windows machine would use anything else.

Also, anyone using antivirus already acknowledges that microsoft software is not secure, so why would anyone expect MORE Microsoft software to be any use when we only NEED the antivirus because the microsoft code already failed?

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