Feeds

McAfee false-positive glitch fells PCs worldwide

When AV attacks

Using blade systems to cut costs and sharpen efficiencies

IT admins across the globe are letting out a collective groan after servers and PCs running McAfee VirusScan were brought down when the anti-virus program attacked their core system files. In some cases, this caused the machines to display the dreaded blue screen of death.

Details are still coming in, but forums here and here show that it's affecting McAfee customers in Germany, Italy, and elsewhere. A UK-based Reg reader, who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorized by his employer to speak to the press, said the glitch simultaneously leveled half of a customer's 140 machines after they updated to the latest virus signature file.

"Literally half of the machines were down with this McAfee anti-virus message IDing valid programs as having this trojan," the IT consultant said. "Literally half the office switched off their PCs and were just twiddling their thumbs."

When the consultant returned to his office he was relieved that his own laptop, which also uses VirusScan, was working normally. Then, suddenly, when it installed the latest McAfee DAT file, his computer was also smitten. The anti-virus program identified winvnc.exe and several other legitimate files as malware and attempted to quarantine them. With several core system files out of commission, the machine was rendered an expensive paperweight.

A McAfee representative in the US didn't immediately respond to phone calls seeking comment. Friday is a holiday for many US employees in observance of Saturday's Independence Day.

Based on anecdotes, the glitch appears to be caused when older VirusScan engines install DAT 5664, which McAfee seems to have pushed out in the past 24 hours. Affected systems then begin identifying a wide variety of legitimate - and frequently crucial - system files as malware. Files belonging to Microsoft Internet Explorer, drivers for Compaq computers, and even the McAfee-associated McScript.exe were being identified as a trojan called PWS!hv.aq, according to the posts and interviews.

We're still trying to determine how widespread this false-positive glitch is being felt and whether people have found any reliable fixes. If you have insight, please leave a comment below. ®

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

More from The Register

next story
NEW, SINISTER web tracking tech fingerprints your computer by making it draw
Have you been on YouPorn lately, perhaps? White House website?
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
LibreSSL RNG bug fix: What's all the forking fuss about, ask devs
Blow to bit-spitter 'tis but a flesh wound, claim team
Black Hat anti-Tor talk smashed by lawyers' wrecking ball
Unmasking hidden users is too hot for Carnegie-Mellon
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
Own a Cisco modem or wireless gateway? It might be owned by someone else, too
Remote code exec in HTTP server hands kit to bad guys
British data cops: We need greater powers and more money
You want data butt kicking, we need bigger boots - ICO
prev story

Whitepapers

Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
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.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.