The enemy of my enemy is my.....enemy?

Oh McAfee what have you done? Last week McAfee released an update for their antivirus software that crippled Windows XP SP3 machines. This is not the first time McAfee have had this problem, having crippled machines last year with a bad update as well.

Of course, the 'bad guys' have immediately jumped on the bandwagon as well, flooding google with links scareware sites promising to fix the problem.

What to do? Well I'm not here to bash McAfee (they have enough angry customers right now to do that), and all the big vendors make mistakes, but this does expose a serious problem in the quality control of another big AV vendor.

Last year I sat through a presentation by McAfee where they talked about the massive rise in malware and viruses, a comment that was echoed by Symantec in a presentation around the same time. The Sophos 2010 Security Threat Report [pdf] states that "Sophos’s global network of labs received around 50,000 new malware samples every day during 2009".

Combine that with the constant need to beat the competitors to market with the latest protection and it's no wonder a mistake like McAfee's recent one was made. It seems almost inevitable it will happen again.

But what can be done to protect your servers and desktops? Do AV updates need to be treated like patches and be run through a testing regime before deployment? Is this even feasible in an era of daily (or multiple times daily) signature updates?

I'm no developer and not in the AV business, but it would seem to me having a 'whitelist' of known good items (such as critical windows components) might be a way to stop something like this occurring again...

1 Response to "The enemy of my enemy is my.....enemy?"

  1. I'm not going to defend McAfee (good QA should have caught this) but it seems that Microsoft changed the file without updating the version number (http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2363018,00.asp)

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