Feeds

Conspiracy theories fly around Norton forum 'Pifts' purge

EXE phones home?

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

Conspiracy theories are running rampant in the absence of a clear explanation of why Symantec deleted threads expressing concern about a file called pifts.exe from its Norton support forums.

Many users running Norton Internet Protection began seeing a popup warning on Monday that a file called PIFTS.exe on their systems was trying to access the internet. The location of the file was given as a non-existent folder buried inside the Symantec LiveUpdate folder.

The appearance of a file in a non-existent folder suggests rootkit-like behaviour. PIFTS.exe attempts to contact a server in Africa, which has been traced to Symantec.

Concerned punters started posting on Norton's support forums, asking what was going on. That's all normal enough, but then discussions on the subject were deleted without explanation from Norton's community pages. Follow-up threads mentioning the issue were deleted even more quickly.

Users unable to comment about the issue on Norton's community pages moved onto ZoneAlarm's forums instead. Meanwhile, numerous blog postings (example here) referred to the issue, some touting conflicting conspiracy theories.

4chan's bulletin board had a field day, and talk of the issue even prompted a popular urban myths site to set up a holding page. Theories about law enforcement backdoors ran rampant pending a response from Symantec clearing up the issue.

Some solid evidence also emerged.

The PIFTS.exe file has been submitted to VirusTotal numerous times, from which we only learn no vendor has defined it as malign. Submission to ThreatExpert suggests that the file phones home to Symantec (specifically stats.norton.com).

Symantec UK told us it was looking into the issue. The reliable Internet Storm Centre reports that Symantec told it the program is part of the Norton update process and is benign.

This fails to explain why support forum postings were deleted, a type of behaviour that might be cited as evidence that Symantec has something to hide. It also doesn't explain why the file reportedly appears in a non-existent folder. ®

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
BMW's ConnectedDrive falls over, bosses blame upgrade snafu
Traffic flows up 20% as motorway middle lanes miraculously unclog
LibreSSL RNG bug fix: What's all the forking fuss about, ask devs
Blow to bit-spitter 'tis but a flesh wound, claim team
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
Putin: Crack Tor for me and I'll make you a MILLIONAIRE
Russian Interior Ministry offers big pile o' roubles for busting pro-privacy browser
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
Don't look, Snowden: Security biz chases Tails with zero-day flaws alert
Exodus vows not to sell secrets of whistleblower's favorite OS
Roll out the welcome mat to hackers and crackers
Security chap pens guide to bug bounty programs that won't fail like Yahoo!'s
Researcher sat on critical IE bugs for THREE YEARS
VUPEN waited for Pwn2Own cash while IE's sandbox leaked
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.