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Sophos DNS snafu creates update problems

Bad hair day nothing to do with hackers

Domain name system problems left some users of Sophos unable to get security updates on Friday. The same issue, blamed on a mistake by one of the security firm's service providers rather than hostile action, left many surfers unable to access its main sophos.com website.

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, explained that an error by one of its service providers in updating DNS settings for the Sophos.com site has permeated across the internet, and will take a little while to untangle. "Some users have experienced problems getting updates because of these incorrect settings," he explained. "No kind of DNS cache poisoning or any kind of hacking attack was involved."

DNS is the internet's address lookup system, which translates domain names humans are comfortable with into IP addresses that computers understand. Errors in the system make it difficult to reach sites as normal (without knowing or finding out the IP address, that is).

The Sophos.co.uk website was never affected by the problem. Staff have been able to send and receive email, and regular signature updates have been published as normal - even though some users may have had problems receiving these updates, a statement on Sophos's UK site explains.

We are aware that since yesterday {Thursday] a minority of our customers have been experiencing intermittent issues with accessing some parts of our website. In addition, some users may have experienced intermittent issues receiving anti-virus and anti-spam updates from Sophos.

This was because the sophos.com domain was not being resolved properly in some parts of the world as a result of an error made by an external domain management service provider. This error has now been corrected by the provider, but because of the nature of the internet it takes some time for the fix to permeate throughout the entire internet.

A number of Reg readers hit by the problem were the first to bring it to our attention. "Looks like Sophos are having big network issues," Reg reader Martin H reported. "The Web site has been flakey for most of yesterday and I for one haven't had any AV updates for over 24 hours."

Another Reg reader, Juan K, reported similar problems involving "clients who can't update their Sophos AV software this [Friday] morning".

Sophos apologised for any inconvenience, adding it was in talks with its service providers on how to prevent a repetition of the problem in future. ®

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