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McAfee pushes bad update, takes down Windows XP computers

mcafee windows xp bugYesterday, McAfee pushed out a DAT file for its Enterprise virus-scanning software that tracked down a core Windows XP system file and quarantined it as malware.  Thousands, if not tens of thousands, of computer systems were damaged as a result.  Windows XP cannot run without the quarantined file, SVCHOST.EXE, and as a result, automatically shut itself down.  Other weird settings and symptoms were evident, such as taskbars disappearing, blue-screens-of-death, and other crash-related symptoms.

On one hand, relief simply did not come fast enough.  On the other…what more could McAfee have done to repair the damage?  McAfee rolled back the virus definition as quickly as it found out, and released an addendum file that could be manually applied to infected PCs.  The servers hosting the offered file were strained by the demand, resulting in disconnect errors and failures to update the McAfee software.

“We believe that this incident has impacted less than one half of one percent of our enterprise accounts globally, and a fraction of that within the consumer base,” said Barry McPherson, on McAfee’s blog Wednesday.  He goes on to identify the error in the update, stating that it was an attempt to detect a potentially damaging virus, and the update “clearly did more harm than good.”

“Having talked to literally hundreds of my colleagues around the world and emailed thousands to try and find the best way to correct these issues, let me say this has not been my favorite day. Not for me, or for McAfee. Not by a long shot.”

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