Wednesday, April 21 was not one of McAfee's finer days. If you run antivirus software from McAfee and use the Windows XP operating system, it is quite likely that you had a massive headache from your computer on that specific Wednesday, as an update released from McAfee caused chaos for computers numbering in the tens of thousands.
Although the malicious update that was launched at 9 a.m. Eastern Time was only available for four hours prior to McAfee restricting it, the damage was already done to many of the cyber security company's customers. At the heart of the fiasco was a false positive, where the antivirus software incorrectly detected the W32/Wecorl.a virus. The software diagnosed SVCHOST.EXE as the W32/Wecorl.a virus, and began to attack it.
The problem is, SVCHOST.EXE is a vital component to the Windows operating system, and once it was seen as a virus and attacked, it basically caused the computer to begin turning on itself. Customers affected by this erroneous update reported that their computers would constantly crash or reboot. Many also said that the update would not allow them to launch any programs, rendering their computers useless.
Although McAfee downplayed the update's effects and stated that it only struck less than one percent of its business customers and even fewer personal ones, the false positive still created havoc for many. The fact that the problem hit many vital businesses makes it difficult to downplay.
For instance, hospitals in Rhode Island whose computers were affected reported that they had to postpone surgeries and deny help to some patients. Some police officers in Kentucky claimed that they decided to write reports by hand instead of on their patrol cars' computers due to the update and the fear that it could cause the loss of important data. At the University of Michigan, the medical school reported that nearly one third of its computers crashed from the McAfee update. These instances are just a handful of examples of how the erroneous update caused panic.
Of course, with the errors and crashes came much backlash and criticism aimed toward McAfee. The company was criticized for being slow in acknowledging the problem on its website, and many customers used online forums and social networking sites to express their anger. So many users complained on McAfee's website that it caused the site to crash, leaving even more of a bad taste in customers' mouths.
A fix to the problem was posted by McAfee on the Internet. It detailed measures to restore computers back to their normal, pre-update states. The fix, however, which focused on affected computers running Windows XP, was seen by many as complicated and too technical. It required users to download and install an EXTRA.DAT file manually, and its lack of automation meant that some, such as network administrators who oversee many computers, would have a lot of work on their hands to fix the mess.
Needless to say, this unfortunate event has done some damage to McAfee's reputation. Customers look to antivirus software as a way to protect themselves from attacks. The fact that McAfee themselves were the source of this attack will likely lead many customers to shop elsewhere for their security needs, as one error could be too costly to endure, particularly when sensitive data is involved.
For more on this, visit: http://news.cnet.com/8301-1009_3-20003074-83.html
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