McAfee Gaffe Deletes Excel, Other Apps

An error within the virus definition file for McAfee's antivirus software marked several Microsoft Office components, some Adobe product applications, and several other programs as viruses. Depending on the settings, these files would be either quarantined or deleted.

The update was released Friday, and by the afternoon the company was made aware of the issue after it began receiving unusually high reports of the virus known as W95/CTX. By the evening, McAfee had pushed an update to its servers to fix the problem.

McAfee was mistakenly marking excel.exe and graph.exe, two Office components, Adobe's AdobeUpdateManager.exe, and several other applications as containing the virus.

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Affected were desktop versions of the software, but not McAfee's network-level product. In order for the error to affect users, however, a scan must have occured manually or automatically during the roughly five-hour window that the update was on McAfee's servers.

Virus definition file 4715 was released at 10:45am Pacific Time Friday, and replaced with the corrected file, 4716, at 3:30pm Pacific, the company reported.

While errors in definition files do happen, mistakes like Friday's are much less common. Usually new applications, or ones custom built by developers, are affected by these issues. This error is one of McAfee's bigger mistakes, it admitted.

McAfee said it is working to prevent the issue from happening again, and it had found the source of the problem.

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