McAfee anti-virus goes berserk

2010-04-22 11:19

Washington - A routine anti-virus update from web security firm McAfee confused a valid Windows file with a virus on Wednesday, disrupting computers around the world.

Universities, hospitals and businesses across the US were among those reporting problems after the update misidentified a valid Windows system file as malicious code and caused computers to continually reboot.

The problem hit corporate users of Microsoft's Windows XP Service Pack 3 operating system, according to McAfee, which released another update later in the day to fix the problem and urged customers to download it.

The Internet Storm Centre, an initiative of the Sans Technology Institute which monitors problems on the web, said "the affected systems will enter a reboot loop and lose all network access".

The centre said it received reports of "networks with thousands of down machines and organisations who had to shut down for business until this is fixed".


The McAfee software slip "pretty much took Intel down today", said analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Group in Silicon Valley.

Enderle told of being at the computer chip titan's headquarters in Northern California for an afternoon of meetings when laptop computers began crashing around him.

"Much of Intel was actually taken out," said Enderle. "I imagine most companies running Intel and McAfee were literally taken out."

It was not immediately possible to determine how many computers had been affected around the world by the faulty update, but the number was likely to run into the tens of thousands.

"We are not aware of significant impact on consumers. We believe that this incident has impacted less than one half of 1% of our consumer base and enterprise accounts globally," said McAfee.

Micro-blogging service Twitter was flooded with complaints by users about Santa Clara, California-based McAfee, one of the world's leading providers of anti-virus software and computer security systems.

"It is not often that a security vender takes out a large number of their clients," Enderle said. "Customers don't forget this stuff any time soon. This is going to hurt McAfee."


Among the US universities reporting problems was the University of Michigan. The website said 8 000 of the 25 000 computers in the university's health system and medical school were hit.

Syracuse, New York's Upstate University Hospital saw 2 500 of its 6 000 computers affected, the website quoted a hospital spokesperson as saying.

McAfee said "the faulty update was quickly removed from all McAfee download servers, preventing any further impact on customers" and that it was taking "measures to prevent this from reoccurring".

"We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience this has caused our customers," the company said in a statement.

A McAfee online support forum was unavailable, meanwhile, displaying a page which read: "The McAfee Community is experiencing unusually large traffic which may cause slow page loads."

  • James Peterson - 2010-04-22 11:44

    It's cool McAfee don't be so hard on yourself ... I often mistake Windows for a virus myself.

  • Penguin - 2010-04-22 11:48

    Get Ubuntu Linux and all's well. It's free!

  • Voltage - 2010-04-22 11:57


  • Me - 2010-04-22 12:07

    Wow, an anti-virus virus, lol, quite funny.

  • JJ - 2010-04-22 12:19

    Thank goodness I stopped using Mcafee years ago!

  • PANNEVIS - 2010-04-22 12:41

    My PC required to BUY an update from McAfee. I uninstalled it and loaded another anti-virus program. Wonder if it was not deliberate?

  • CRimson - 2010-04-22 13:17

    Run Windows 7, all those were XP

  • Scott - 2010-04-22 13:19

    My wife phoned me in a panic saying her computer said it had a virus and was rebooting continuously. Is McAfee planning on compensating those users for their downtime (she had to drive to her head office today to get her computer sorted out) and the inconvenience caused? Not good on McAfee's part I am afraid.

  • Mark Brown - 2010-04-22 13:52

    Have never liked McAfee and never will. I'll stick to AVG thanks.

  • Student101 - 2010-04-22 14:13

    We at stellenbosch university had the same problem this morning

  • @Penguin - 2010-04-22 14:50

    OMG here comes the "everyone get Linux it's better" argument. Why do you assume Linux solves every problem? Our Linux box in the office has had critical system crashes three times this year, Linux isn't the answer. Did you even read the article? It was McAfee's fault, not XP's.

  • MSfan-not - 2010-04-22 14:58

    At last! We allways knew Windows is a virus. High time some anti virus software with integrity picks up on it :D

  • Juanne - 2010-04-22 15:10

    Apparently Vodacom is suffering from the Update's doings as well.

  • TurboChris - 2010-04-22 15:11

    I wonder if anti-virus program manufactures also manufacture viruses to keep themselves in business?

  • Cyberdog - 2010-04-22 15:50

    The question is, Damn, what took mcaffee so long to identify windows as a virus?

  • Cat - 2010-04-22 17:03

    Another good reason to buy a Mac - no virus/anti-virus headaches! That is pretty funny though.

  • MarcP @ Chris - 2010-04-23 02:50

    I have for a long time suspected the same thing as you. A new virus is discovered and straight away they already know how to deal with it.

    Use a Mac, never had a virus. Don't even use an anti-virus program. Will never go back to a windows computer.

  • Victor - 2010-04-23 07:58

    Without sounding like trying to downplay McAfee's fault, how many times did Microsoft themselves released an update that brakes systems. This is the first time in over 5 years that McAfee made a fault. Lots of people now say stuff like "Need to switch antivirus because of this" Symantic did it twice within a year on all systems, servers and desktops. McAfee had a fix within 30 min for this, but a lot of people already downloaded the update.

  • FUMacintosh - 2010-09-27 10:17

    Windows is not the problem,McAfee is.As for Apple products they belong in the bin

  • igotmeabrain - 2010-09-27 11:47

    to all you linux/mac users trying to find reasons to convince your self to stay on a backward 6% of the market desktop I would keep quite. keep your desktop a secret cause if more people started using it there will actually be a chance that people would want to attack something that has a double digit usage number..

  • Indigo - 2010-09-27 12:21

    "igotmeabrain"? I don't think so honey... MarcP, I'm with you. I've always had a Mac, hubby's too stubborn to dump his PC). I never have hassles with my Mac, hubby's PC however, is forever getting viruses, despite up-to-date virus software. Once you've tried Mac, you'll never go back...

  • azeez - 2010-09-28 17:11

    the deed is done already and it has been undone so what you have to do is to tender an unreserved apology to your customers

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