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McAfee and Windows XP Shutdowns

Saturday, April 24, 2010 in Technical Articles (Views: 4050)
McAfee released a security update this past week that shut down many Windows XP machines across the globe. Companies such as Intel were brought to a crawl because their machines wouldn't work.

So, what actually happened?

The technical explanation of this is quite simple. Windows has critical system files, and if they aren't present, the system doesn't run. The file in question is svchost.exe, which when the virus was detected (as a false positive), the w32/wecorl.a virus (which was falsely detected) would quarantine this needed file.

The problem? World wide shutdown of some XP machines. The strange part of this virus is that it is not a new virus - it was originally detected in late 2008 and has a low threat level. What gets me is all of the fallout from this.. The truth is that (according to McAfee) that .005% of their customers were actually affected. That is still a lot of people if you think about it. Say, they had 2,000,000 installs worldwide (and that isn't outrageous) - 10,000 customers would be affected by a inoperable machine.

Windows XP is a good OS - I use it more than Vista, and would prefer it to Windows 7 only because it is more lightweight - good as a client test box or VM, since it isn't the resource hog that 7 is.

McAfee says they are "very sorry", and steps are being taken never to have this happen again. English translation: We screwed up, and will again, but we need our jobs. Some people in the public are being irrational - saying that they are suing McAfee.

I can understand those small businesses who think their voice to a large company like a McAfee, Microsoft, Oracle, Symantec, etc means nothing. Their voice really doesn't mean anything.

My take on the situation? Well, I've never been a McAfee fan - and honestly never thought their Antivirus could catch a cold if it fell asleep in the snow. Be that as it may, I don't think they would ever intentionally try to ruin their business by taking computers down.

I say that people should accept their apology as a company, it's the first time they have screwed up to this magnatude. Will they do it again? Hard to tell - this isn't McAfee's first screw up, but I think they have learned from this. They haven't made a lot of new sales, and honestly I don't think they've lost many customers. Those who have it, for the majority, will continue to use it. I don't see consumers and businesses flocking to Symantec or any other solution. One thing we can all agree on - it's better than Forefront.

For those customers impacted, or even for those who haven't been yet, there is a lot of logic for not even needing antivirus software. Wait, did I just say you should get on the information superhighway without protection? Yes. Stay off the porn sites, stay on legit websites, and don't click on everything you see. Stay off the P2P software, the Limewires, BearShares, and anything else like it, since what you download is prone to virus attacks. Keep the firewall turned on, except for what you need to have running. I've been virus free for years and really never had to worry.

Simply put, McAfee's issue this past week was "much ado about nothing". People won't flock to Linux just because of McAfee's blunder. That's another story - just because Linux isn't prone to virus attacks doesn't mean it isn't safer. The average Linux user is much more savvy than the average Windows user. I'd say the percentages of Windows users who fall under the category of being far too stupid to own a computer are much higher than the Linux user. Okay, off the rant. Time to blog on something else.


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