McAfee gaffe hits IT users worldwide

Anti-virus vendor McAfee has been busy repairing the damage caused by an embarrassing blunder after one of its virus updates was reported to have caused widespread damage to users’ systems.

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By  Dylan Bowman Published  March 26, 2006

Anti-virus vendor McAfee has been busy repairing the damage caused by an embarrassing blunder after one of its virus updates was reported to have caused widespread damage to users’ systems. The PC protector turned computer crasher this month when it sent out a faulty definition update that flagged hundreds of widely-used software programs as Windows virus W95/CTX and either quarantined or deleted them. According to reports, many PC users and IT departments worldwide were affected when they installed the 4715 DAT file, shipped on March 10, and saw applications including Micro- soft Excel, the Google Toolbar Installer, Adobe Update Manager and Macromedia Flash Player wiped. Some organisations claimed that users were being faced with the task of restoring hundreds of files. However, McAfee claimed there had been no ‘significant’ effect on its customers in the region. “There was no significant effect in the Middle East as none of our customers, to the best of our knowledge, were permanently affected,” said a McAfee spokesman, who add- ed, “We were notified of only one case in the Middle East where a customer was affected and [that] was solved immediately.” The firm said it was already taking steps to ensure this would not happen again. “We will be reviewing our procedures thoroughly in light of the events on March 10,” said the spokesman. “Additional DAT tests will need to be created to account for product-specific differences in functionality such as this, DAT signature creation and review processes will be examined in depth and we will be reviewing our emergency processes to ensure that we minimise the time from detection of a problem to notification of our customers,” the spokesman added. McAfee was quick to acknowledge the gaffe, releasing a customer notice on its website and releasing new definition 4716 and the CTXUndo tool to recover files quarantined by the faulty definition. In the release the vendor said the incorrect identification happened only in the On-Demand Scanners for VirusScan Enterprise, Managed VirusScan, VirusScan Online, LinuxShield and VirusScan. “This affected both manually-initiated and scheduled scans. This issue was corrected in the 4716 DATs released approximately five hours later,” the notice went on to state.

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