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Symantec undeletes mail deletion bug

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Symantec has issued a fix for a serious bug within Norton Internet Security 2003 which is responsible for the unexplained deletion of emails for some users.

Users are advised to run the LiveUpdate automatic updating facility to fix the flaw.

Symantec was first notified of the serious bug, which it says only affected a small number of users, on October 14. At first it was unable to replicate the problem, but our storyon Monday this week seems to have focused its mind.

The company released a patch for the flaw on Wednesday night, not a moment too soon as shown by this threadon the bug in Symantec's Knowledge base where users document their frustration at the vaporisation of important emails.

The Reg reader who first brought the deletion bug to our attention noted its serious consequences.

"People are having their email permanently and inexplicably deleted by a product that is supposed to be giving 'Security'," he said. "I've seen Virii do less damage than this."

The deletion of emails by AV products is uncommon but not unprecedented. Last year we reported a glitch in McAfee's VirusScan software which caused emails sent to Outlook Express users to 'disappear'.

An intermittent probleminvolving the interaction of Windows 2000 or XP with McAfee VirusScan 4.5.1 and Outlook Express 6 meant that the index file to existing email folders could become damaged when a user downloads new mail. In extreme cases folders were trashed - all users get is a message saying Welcome to Outlook Express 6 as if they were a new user.

The problem also affected Outlook Express 5.5 users, but to a lesser extent. The messages are still present in the .dbx file used by Outlook Express, but as the index is damaged, users can't read them from the email client itself.

Outlook users - or those of other email clients, such as Eudora - are unaffected.

Following our first story a number of readers wrote to us telling us that they had suffered email deletion when running other (far less common) AV packages too. ®

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