The McAfee update mess explained
What happened when McAfee's flawed update went out, who did it hit and why?
Computerworld - Yesterday was a tough day for corporate IT administrators tied to McAfee. In some cases, they faced a full-blown meltdown of their organization's PCs, as hundreds, in some cases thousands, of Windows XP computers went down after receiving a faulty antivirus update from the security firm.
The whole story's not clear at this point, but there are some things that we know -- and a lot that we don't -- about the latest debacle from a vendor that is supposed to protect, not prang, PCs.
This is our first take on what happened, who was hit and why. If you have time to read this, we're assuming you're not one of those scrambling to bring crippled machines back to life.
What happened? Short answer: McAfee screwed up.
The long answer is more complicated. Wednesday's update -- McAfee pushes daily updates to its corporate customers -- was meant to detect and destroy a relatively minor threat, the "W32/wecorl.a" virus. Instead, it went rogue, wrongly fingered the critical "svchost.exe" file in Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) as malware, and then quarantined it by removing it from its normal location. In some cases, the update actually deleted the file.
Think of the snafu as if the police pinned a crime on a suspect based on flawed DNA testing, only to find out they'd got the wrong guy.
Why did the PCs crash and burn after getting the bad update? Without svchost.exe -- a generic host process for services that run from other Windows DLLs (dynamic link libraries) -- a Windows PC won't boot properly.
When users applied the update, then rebooted, they were toast: The machines crashed and rebooted repeatedly. Most also lost all network capability, and some were unable to "see" USB drives, a major problem since recovery may require the reinstallation of svchost.exe, something that could be done more easily by walking a flash drive from one crippled computer to the next.
What machines were affected? Only PCs running Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3), says McAfee.
Other version of Windows XP, including SP1 and SP2, were not nailed by the update, nor were systems running Windows 2000, Vista, Windows 7, Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008. McAfee also said even older editions -- such as Windows 98 -- were unaffected.
There are, however, scattered reports on the McAfee support forum of Vista machines also going down.
My company runs Windows XP SP3. Why were only some crippled? Good question.
Only machines running VirusScan 8.7 were affected, users reported and McAfee confirmed. If you're running an older version, including the earlier Enterprise 8.5, you were in the clear.
- Researcher claims two hacker gangs exploiting unpatched IE bug
- Update: Third of Internet Explorer users at risk from attacks
- Microsoft plans another short patch slate for next week, but finds a few XP bugs to crush
- Target attack shows danger of remotely accessible HVAC systems
- Target hackers try new ways to use stolen card data
- Update: Microsoft to patch just-revealed Windows zero-day tomorrow
- NSA spying prompts open TrueCrypt encryption software audit to go viral
- Microsoft warns of Office zero-day, active hacker exploits
- Hackers move to create next Blackhole after 'Paunch' arrest
- Adobe hack shows subscription software vendors lucrative targets
- 15 Non-Certified IT Skills Growing in Demand
- How 19 Tech Titans Target Healthcare
- Twitter Suffering From Growing Pains (and Facebook Comparisons)
- Agile Comes to Data Integration
- Slideshow: 7 security mistakes people make with their mobile device
- iOS vs. Android: Which is more secure?
- 11 sure signs you've been hacked
- The 12 PCI DSS 3.0 requirements addressed by Peer 1 Hosting This handy quick reference outlines the 12 PCI DSS 3.0 requirements, who needs to be compliant and how Alert Logic solutions address the...
- Defense Throughout the Vulnerability Life Cycle This whitepaper provides insight into how to leverage threat and log management technologies to protect your IT assets throughout their vulnerability life cycle.
- Mobile Policy Checklist Here's what to consider when putting together a mobile policy designed to support a highly productive workforce.
- Securing BYOD Mobile computing is becoming so ubiquitous that people no longer bat an eye seeing someone working two devices simultaneously. Individuals and organizations are...
- Live Webcast On-demand webinar: "Mobility Mayhem: Balancing BYOD with Enterprise Security" Check out this on-demand webinar to hear Sophos senior security expert John Shier deep dive into how BYOD impacts your enterprise security strategy...
- Live Webcast Endpoint Backup & Restore: Protect Everyone, Everywhere Arek Sokol from the bleeding-edge IT team at Genentech/Roche explains how he leverages cross-platform enterprise endpoint backup in the public cloud as part...
- Streamline Software Asset Management, Compose a software Management Symphony Keeping track of your organization's software is easy with effective software management solutions from CDW. View the videos in our software solutions channel
- Druva inSync: Endpoint Data Protection & Governance CLICK HERE to watch this video about protecting corporate data on laptops and mobile devices, sponsored by Druva. All Security White Papers | Webcasts