Bad McAfee update disables computers worldwide

Posted 22 April 2010 01:05 CEST by Jared Newman

Something went seriously wrong with an anti-virus update from McAfee, and now corporate computers around the world running Windows XP have shut down.

Computers are switching off within a minute of start-up, according to a flood of first-hand reports on Twitter and elsewhere. (I’ve actually heard this from a friend of mine whose employers use McAfee.) The issue does not affect consumers, only enterprise PCs, but the problem is widespread, potentially affecting millions of PCs, Engadget reports.

At issue is DAT update 5958, which deletes the computer’s svchost.exe file. This in turn triggers a false positive with McAfee’s virus scan software, telling the affected computer to shut down. McAfee acknowledged that the update can cause “moderate to significant performance issues” in PCs running Windows XP Service Pack 3.

McAfee has already removed the bad update from its servers, and has issued an official fix, but the workarounds are not simple, and technicians will have to service every single affected machine. Large companies with thousands of computers won’t be productive for quite some time, it seems.

“McAfee is continuing to work on an automated solution to fully resolve the issue for affected customers,” the fix’s Web site says. It’s worth noting that the workarounds are posted on a separate Web site, as went down earlier today after the site became inundated with visitors in search of help.

Obviously this is a colossal foul-up for McAfee, and in these kinds of situations, your best hope is that the company does a good job of communicating to its customers. McAfee’s got to be busy fixing this problem for now, but after the dust clears, McAfee will need to explain in detail how this happened, and what it will do to make sure it never happens again.

Related content