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Symantec Y2.01K bug still stymies customers

String compare hobbles Endpoint Manager

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Nine days after Symantec's corporate antivirus dashboard succumbed to an end-of-decade bug that caused it to stop accepting updates, the company has yet to fix the underlying problem, much to the chagrin of customers.

In a case of extreme Déjà vu, the flaw in SEPM, or Symantec Endpoint Manager, stems from its inability to recognize the year 2010. Shortly after the first of the year, the program stopped accepting new virus definitions. For most of the time since then, Symantec managed to work around the problem by dating all subsequent updates December 31, 2009, a kludge that has created gnashing of teeth for many of its users.

Starting Friday, customers who updated using Symantec Endpoint Client have been able to get definitions that show the correct date.

Symantec has targeted this weekend to begin rolling out patches that will fix the underlying flaw, and the company hopes to have the updates completed by the end of next week, said Jim Waggoner, director of product management for SEPM. The patches will be delivered though the product's LiveUpdate feature to ensure they're installed automatically.

"If there's one thing I've been telling customers, it's that they're still protected, and we want to fix this problem for them so it's best they don't touch the system to change definitions or policies," Waggoner told The Register. "If they touch nothing this problem will get resolved. We're going to keep them protected and we're trying to fix it."

Symantec's talking points were almost the same four days ago.

The problem has been wreaking havoc on customers because the incorrect date in the updates delivered since the beginning of the year caused many programs to deliver messages warning that their systems were woefully out of date. Customers using older versions also suffered as temporary files that normally would have been cleared automatically caused storage systems to run out of room.

Support forums such as this one capture the anguish of customers who have struggled with the problem since shortly after midnight on January 1.

"I hoped we had overcome stupid date calculation mistakes with the year 2000 bug, but it appears Symantec cant even remember what happened 10 years ago - using a single digit for the year in the defs is an obvious mistake," one user wrote. "I am not impressed with such a stupid shortcoming in what is supposed to be an Enterprise product."

The problem, actually, stems from a different mistake, Waggoner insisted: the use of a string compare function that interpreted 2010 as being earlier than 2009. But even if the poster was technically wrong, the spirit of his criticism - that Symantec's coding snafu amounts to a mortal sin - is spot on, particularly in light of everything programmers learned 10 years ago.

Waggoner said the string compare is being replaced with an integer compare function that he vows won't make the same mistake again. ®

The next step in data security

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