Feeds

Conspiracy theories fly around Norton forum 'Pifts' purge

EXE phones home?

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

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 essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
One HUNDRED FAMOUS LADIES exposed NUDE online
Celebrity women victimised as Apple iCloud accounts reportedly popped
Rubbish WPS config sees WiFi router keys popped in seconds
Another day, another way in to your home router
Goog says patch⁵⁰ your Chrome
64-bit browser loads cat vids FIFTEEN PERCENT faster!
NZ Justice Minister scalped as hacker leaks emails
Grab your popcorn: Subterfuge and slur disrupts election run up
HP: NORKS' cyber spying efforts actually a credible cyberthreat
'Sophisticated' spies, DIY tech and a TROLL ARMY – report
NIST to sysadmins: clean up your SSH mess
Too many keys, too badly managed
Scratched PC-dispatch patch patched, hatched in batch rematch
Windows security update fixed after triggering blue screens (and screams) of death
Attack flogged through shiny-clicky social media buttons
66,000 users popped by malicious Flash fudging add-on
New Snowden leak: How NSA shared 850-billion-plus metadata records
'Federated search' spaffed info all over Five Eyes chums
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?