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False Trojan horse alert causes chaos

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An Australian software developer has been left fuming after the latest virus definition update from McAfee caused his package to be wrongly identified as a Trojan horse programme.

The false positive meant that ISPWizard, an internet setup program wizard, was labelled as the BackDoor-AKZ Trojan by users running the latest update of McAfee's AV software. As a result, ISPWizard is being unceremoniously ripped from users' systems. This means that many people are unable to connect to their ISPs because the software that they need has been automatically deleted by McAfee.

McAfee's cock-up dates from 1 September when it released an antivirus DAT (signature file) update. It has yet to rectify its mistake.

ISPWizard Developer Mark Griffiths slammed McAfee's tardy response: "This is causing major problems for my business, the businesses of my customers [ISPs] and also their customers as well. Despite this problem being quickly reported to McAfee and it being stressed to them that this is a major problem which is causing damage to many businesses, they have been very slow to react," he said.

"Although they have now responded and admitted that this is a problem with their software, they have still not released a new update to their DAT files to fix the problem and say that it may take until Thursday [9 September] before it is actually released. In the meantime, the software continues to misidentify my software as being infected by a Trojan. End users that are being affected are either contacting the ISP for assistance and blaming them for distributing a Trojan - greatly increasing the support burden and costs for the ISP, or they are simply switching to another ISP," he added.

Other AV vendors (for example, Sophos) detect the BackDoor-AKZ Trojan without interfering with the operation of ISPWizard. "I'm not aware of any other anti-virus program that is misidentifying my software at the moment," said Griffiths.

So why is McAfee AV misdiagnosing a benign program as malignant? We don't know. Our repeated calls and emails to McAfee over the last two days failed to generate a response from the company

In copies of email correspondence between Griffiths and Avert Labs, McAfee's AV research division, a suggestion was made that the misdiagnosis could have arisen because components of ISPWizard were created with the same package as components of the backdoor Trojan program. But this remains only a theory. McAfee has offered Griffiths a temporary DAT file that end users would need to manually install on their systems as a workaround. Griffiths is unimpressed with the offer: he is frustrated that McAfee has not released an emergency automatic update. ®

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