Virus protection update causes millions of PCs to crash

An anti-virus update from software security firm McAfee has unintentionally caused PCs running Microsoft Windows XP to crash, with thousands of business and individual customers affected.

While the company has already released information on how to neutralise the problem, it is understood even government organisations in the US have been affected by the issue.

McAfee has said the problem, which was contained within an update, designed to protect users from malware, has caused computers to be hit with the so-called “blue screen of death”, thus making their workstations unusable.

Some organisations have also reported their computers restarting automatically, thus putting them into a loop of shutting down and starting up again with seemingly no solution.

Unfortunately, the company’s online discussion forums were also thrown offline, preventing users from logging on to receive information on how to solve the issue.

“Basically, in the last 24 hours we identified a new threat that impacted Windows PCs. We were working on that issue that attacks some critical Windows system files, and buries itself into the memory stack,” a McAfee spokesperson says.

At the same time, the company also recognised a false-positive error impacting Windows XP Service Pack 3 machines. The spokesperson says this is a second, separate problem, and impacts customers who changed the default settings on any of the company’s antivirus programs.

“We have removed that update from our download servers and we believe so far the impact has been to less than 1% of our customer base, and has created high visibility. We are getting all of our teams calling our customers to offer them any assistance while we help them understand the situation or the scenarios where they could be impacted.”

Reports have flooded the internet of thousands of computers being affected. Among the organisations reported to be hit include the University of Illinois in the US with thousands of computers, the Kentucky State Police Department, several hospitals in Rhode Island and many individual users posting on Twitter.

Businesses are also complaining about the problem, saying the update makes their computers virtually unusable. But McAfee says users are able to fix the issue if they follow instructions on the company’s website.

“We’ve already provided our customers with information on how to solve the problem, and are giving them remediation. The problem has been neutralised, if people go to our site they can get that information there.”

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