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Symantec subscription glitch derails users

False early expiry flap

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Symantec has apologised after a glitch with its software resulted in "small group" of its customers been falsely advised that their software subscriptions had expired early.

The early renewal alert SNAFU affected an unknown number of users of 2006 versions of Norton products. Users of 2005 and the latest (2007) versions of Norton-branded security products from Symantec were not affected.

In a statement, Symantec said the glitch was "caused by a technical problem within the subscription client, which has since been identified and for which a fix is now available. Norton customers with 2005 or 2007 product versions are not affected by this issue".

Symantec published a patch designed to address the problem in January (http://service1.symantec.com/SUPPORT/custserv.nsf/docid/2006072017131546), which it has subsequently pushed out to customers via its LiveUpdate service, the feature of its software packages used to obtain new anti-virus definition files or program updates.

However, Reg readers who informed us of the problem only began experiencing problems at the start of February. For Reg reader Tim, for example, his problems with Norton Internet Security 2006 began when the software warned him his machine wasn't protected against a Trojan.

"LiveUpdate would not work, just kept coming back and telling me my machine was not protected and when I tried to manually activate LiveUpdate it said that LiveUpdate was currently running in the background and that it should finish the session – it went on in a continuous circle," he told us.

Symantec told Tim how to fix the initial problem, after which the software worked for a few days before he was confronted by a bogus subscription expired notice when he had more than five months left to run on his subscription. "I got on to Symantec, they told me I needed to synchronise my machine with the Symantec server, they gave me instructions which I followed, and the machine then returned to the correct number of unexpired days. The laptop was on auto LiveUpdate and auto scan," he added.

Tim said he only knew how many days he had left on his license because he had written it down on his installation CD. He asks: "How many other people just paid up and renewed without knowing how many days/months they had left? Will Symantec refund those people who renewed in error?"

Symantec said users with queries about the problem, whether financial or technical, needed to contact its customer support staff. The security giant acknowledged that users might still be encountering the issue for the first time due to synchronisation problems.

"Customers still receiving incorrect notifications that their subscription is due to expire are advised to run LiveUpdate as soon as possible, or to check that their product is correctly synchronised with Symantec's client licensing server to ensure the subscription date is correct," it said.

More information on synchronisation can be found here.

Symantec explained that Norton 2006 customers with an up to date subscription are automatically eligible for all features available within the 2007 versions of the products. This would happen, for example, where users bought a yearly subscription in June 2006, a few months before the release of the Norton 2007 line-up. Users in this category experiencing subscription glitches are able to upgrade to the 2007 version in order to resolve the problem, as explained here.

The early renewal flap is unrelated to a problem some business users experienced in December that meant they weren't easily able to repurchase renewed subscriptions once the Symantec licences had expired. ®

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