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McAfee downplays service pack fail

Virus update leaves PCs unbootable

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A recent McAfee service pack led to systems being rendered unbootable, according to posts on the security giant's support forums.

The mandatory service pack for McAfee's corporate Virus scanning product, VSE 8.7, was designed to address minor security bugs but instead tagged windows system files as malware. The software update was issued on 27 May and pulled on 2 June, after problems occurred. Users were advised to keep the patch if they'd already installed it in a low-key announcement on McAfee's knowledge base.

Posts on McAfee's support forum paint a different picture of PCs and server left unbootable after the update had automatically deleted Windows systems files wrongly identified as potentially malign. Our source among the McAfee user community, who asked not to be named, described the incident as a "massive fail" by McAfee and reports that sysadmins are angry that a long awaited patch turned out to do more harm than good.

In a statement, McAfee acknowledged potential problems but said that these were rare. It said it planned to reissue the service pack once glitches with the software were ironed out.

McAfee removed Patch 1 for McAfee VirusScan Enterprise 8.7i from its download servers out of precaution after a potential issue with the update was discovered. A very small number of customers reported trouble with the patch on a limited number of computers.

Once the cause of the problem has been identified and the issue has been resolved, we will repost Patch 1. Customers should contact McAfee support if they have any questions regarding this issue, and check the McAfee ServicePortal for further updates.

Problems with anti-virus scanner definition updates that result in false alarms against harmless files are a well known Achilles' heel of security software. The issue causes more trouble in cases where system files are flagged as potentially malign. The problems with McAfee's enterprise security software are arguably even worse than that because they involve a service pack and not just regular definition updates.

McAfee users have every right to ask tough questions about the security giant's quality assurance and testing regime even if, as McAfee states, only a small percentage of users ran into problems. ®

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