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McAfee Update Causing Tens of Thousands of Spontaneously Broken Computers

A flawed update from anti-virus software maker McAfee is causing tens of thousands of Windows computers to become inoperable–and McAfee’s response time is not inspiring.

McAfee VirusScan

McAfee pushed out a firmware update for its anti-virus software that’s wreaking havoc on tens of thousands of Windows XP computers. Looks like some bad coding triggers the deletion of a certain file that triggers a false positive in McAfee, which in turn snowballs into a huge mess of constant, unstoppable restarting and broken network functionality.

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Here’s the statement McAfee sent to Engadget:

McAfee is aware that a number of customers have incurred a false
positive error due to incorrect malware alerts on Wednesday, April 21.
The problem occurs with the 5958 virus definition file (DAT) that was
released on April 21 at 2.00 PM GMT+1 (6am Pacific Time).

Our initial investigation indicates that the error can result in
moderate to significant performance issues on systems running Windows XP
Service Pack 3.

The faulty update has been removed from McAfee download servers for
corporate users, preventing any further impact on those customers. We
are not aware of significant impact on consumer customers and believe we
have effectively limited such occurrence.

McAfee teams are working with the highest priority to support impacted
customers and plan to provide an update virus definition file shortly.
McAfee apologizes for any inconvenience to our customers.

McAfee pulled the update from their servers and has sent out an initial fix, but it only stops the problem for those who haven’t yet suffered the crash–there doesn’t seem to be a foolproof way to fix a computer if it’s already been hit. It’s a huge topic on Twitter, with a ton of users, both business and consumer, losing the ability to use their computers. McAfee is no doubt working on a big fix, but right now they’re having to deal with each infected computer individually. And considering there are reports of Intel and other companies going down, McAfee needs to fix this, and quick–they’re in danger of losing public trust in their product. Maybe founder John McAfee should stay in Belize. There are a lot of people mad at him over here.

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About the author

Dan Nosowitz is a freelance writer and editor who has written for Popular Science, The Awl, Gizmodo, Fast Company, BuzzFeed, and elsewhere. He holds an undergraduate degree from McGill University and currently lives in Brooklyn, because he has a beard and glasses and that's the law

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