Feeds

Conspiracy theories fly around Norton forum 'Pifts' purge

EXE phones home?

Using blade systems to cut costs and sharpen efficiencies

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. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
14 antivirus apps found to have security problems
Vendors just don't care, says researcher, after finding basic boo-boos in security software
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Israel's Iron Dome missile tech stolen by Chinese hackers
Corporate raiders Comment Crew fingered for attacks
Roll out the welcome mat to hackers and crackers
Security chap pens guide to bug bounty programs that won't fail like Yahoo!'s
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Researcher sat on critical IE bugs for THREE YEARS
VUPEN waited for Pwn2Own cash while IE's sandbox leaked
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.
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.
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.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.