Microsoft Admits Windows Can Disable Third-Party Antivirus Software Under Certain Conditions

After coming under antitrust fire from Kaspersky in the wake of the WannaCry ransomware, Microsoft has attempted to clear the air by talking about its work on safety and security – namely Windows Defender – and working with third-party antivirus providers. Kaspersky had filed a complaint with the EU claiming Microsoft was using its dominance to promote its own offering, and creating obstacles for everyone else, including disabling their products and not providing enough time to maintain support.

In a lengthy blog post, Rob Lefferts, Microsoft’s director of program management for Windows enterprise and security, stayed away from mentioning Kaspersky directly, while stressing on support and choice. He noted that they provide early builds through the Windows Insider Program to ensure antivirus software are compatible before an upcoming release.

“We’ve worked closely with AV partners to identify changes, provide early builds through the Windows Insider Program and other testing environments, and provide technical guidance through our Microsoft Virus Initiative (MVI) program,” Lefferts said. “This cadence of regular updates, along with the Windows Insider Program, affords our partners and customers much greater transparency and insight into the Windows development process than ever before.”

Microsoft Admits Windows Can Disable Third-Party Antivirus Software Under Certain Conditions

“Also, 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,” he added. Lefferts noted that about 95 percent of Windows 10 machines had compatible antivirus protection with the recent Windows 10 Creators Update, and so they built a feature for the remaining ones.

“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,” he said. “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.”

Lefferts also emphasised Microsoft’s belief in “always-on” protection, and said that Windows Defender doesn’t come into action unless the third-party antivirus software is incompatible, out of date, or expired. “If AV software is protecting our customers, Windows Defender Antivirus will stay off,” he noted. “If a customer does allow an antivirus application to expire, Windows Defender Antivirus is automatically turned on so that they are not left unprotected.”

“In the case of paid AV solutions, we worked with our AV partners to build a consistent set of notifications to inform customers if their licence is about to expire and to present options to renew the licence,” Lefferts said. “Only when an AV subscription expires, and the AV application decides to stop providing protection to the customer, will Windows Defender Antivirus begin providing protection.”

Though Microsoft has now laid out its defence in full, it remains to be seen how the European Commission will reflect on the Kaspersky complaint. In the past, the EU has tried to make an example out of American tech giants, as evinced by its tax ruling against Apple in Ireland.

 

Uber Admits Knowing Levandowski Was Carrying Confidential Waymo Files

Uber acknowledged hiring a former Google engineer – now accused of stealing self-driving car technology – despite having received warnings that he was still carrying around some of his former employer’s property.

The admission, contained in a Thursday court filing, is the latest twist in a high-profile legal fight between the ride-hailing company and a Google spin-off, Waymo. Both companies are battling to build self-driving cars that could reshape the way people travel.

Waymo alleges that Anthony Levandowski, the former Google engineer at the crux of the case, ripped off its trade secrets before departing in January 2016 to found a robotic vehicle startup that Uber acquired seven months later.

The lawsuit maintains that Uber then transplanted the intellectual property allegedly stolen by Levandowski into its own fleet of self-driving vehicles – a charge that Uber has adamantly denied since Waymo filed its complaint in federal court four months ago.

In May, US District Judge William Alsup ordered Uber to return the stolen files, writing that evidence indicated the company “knew or should have known that he possessed over 14,000 confidential Waymo files.”

Now, Uber has for the first time has acknowledged that Levandowski informed its now-departed CEO , Travis Kalanick, that he had five disks filled with Google’s information five months before joining Uber. The disclosure, made in March 2016, lends credence to Waymo’s allegation that Levandowski downloaded 14,000 documents on to a computer before leaving Google.

Uber Admits Knowing Levandowski Was Carrying Confidential Waymo Files

Uber, though, says Kalanick told Levandowski not to bring any of the Google information with him to Uber. At that time, a deal had been reached for Uber to buy Levandowski’s startup, Otto, for $680 million, though the acquisition wasn’t completed until August 2016.

The filing asserts that Levandowski destroyed the disks containing Google’s material not long after Kalanick told him that Uber didn’t want the information on them.

Levandowski’s lawyers didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. They have been advising Levandowski to assert his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination since Waymo filed its lawsuit.

Based on the evidence he has seen so far, Alsup has already referred the case to the Justice Department for a potential criminal investigation.

The scenario sketched by Uber comes a few weeks after the company fired Levandowski for refusing to relinquish his Fifth Amendment rights and cooperate with its efforts to defend itself against Waymo’s suit.

Kalanick resigned as Uber’s CEO Tuesday week after investors demanded he step down. The investors who have financed Uber’s growth had concluded Kalanick had to go following revelations of sexual harassment in the company’s office, a federal investigation into company tactics used to thwart regulators, and the threat of even more trouble posed by the Waymo lawsuit.