Thursday, April 22, 2010

When an Anti-Virus can cause more damage than a Virus

You would think that when I tell you that a tiny script, downloaded from the Internet yesterday, has destroyed thousands, possibly tens of thousands of Windows PCs, you'd think I was talking about a virus. Ironically, it was actually an automatic update for McAfee Antivirus they sent out yesterday morning.

It apparently deleted major Windows system files, disabled the network and caused a continuous restart loop. Initial press statements by the company that the damaged PCs could be repaired by manually copying the svchost.exe file from another computer, proved to be wishfull thinking. The "update" caused a lot more damage than that!
This update has knocked out whole factories and even some major hospitals. Only time will tell exactly how much damage this "update" has caused.

I am not a fan of Automatic Updates. I disable them all using WinPatrol except that is for Microsoft and Antivirus updates. You always run the risk that if you don't keep Windows or your antivirus up to date then you leave yourself open to all the latest threat. However, after this, I might be changing my policy even for these updates.

WinPatrol is an excellent anti-spyware and general Windows System tool but you cannot just install and leave it to get on with the job. You should take some time to learn what it does in order to take control of your Windows PC. It's worth the effort getting to know Scotty the dog.

One of the most annoying Automatic Updates that keeps popping up is Acrobat Reader. Not only does it survive normal attempts to kill it but almost every update demands a Windows Restart!

Why would a puny little PDF reader tool need a System Restart? That question itself makes me worry what Acrobat are doing to my PCs so that's why its Updates go on permanent Disable. There are too many updates that insist on a Windows Restart. This is one of the most anoying things about Windows in general.

The only similar incident to McAfee I experienced was a few years ago when I was using Zone Alarm Security Suit, consisting of their Firewall and Anti-Virus. One morning it automatically updated its Firewall that destroyed all my Firewall open/close port settings, causing my downloads and online utils to stop working. The "new improved" antivirus kept crashing every few hours. After numerous posts to their forum site, treating me like an idiot and telling me to do stupid things, I uninstalled the rubbish. It's a classic lesson on how to take, what was a popular reliable application and completely ruin it!

It was at that point that I gave AVG Free Antivirus a try. I've been using them ever since. BTW, I would not recommend their paid version (sorry chaps) as it comes with a firewall that is appalling.

There is a far more flexible and sophisticated firewall available called Online Armor and it also happens to be free!

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