Glitch in antivirus software troubles PC users

Jul 10, 2009 By JORDAN ROBERTSON , AP Technology Writer

(AP) -- Antivirus software cuts two ways. It's great at blocking known viruses, but it can sometimes misfire, mistakenly flagging clean files as malicious. That sends a computer into a tailspin trying to clean up stuff that's supposed to be on there.

The problem can crash a computer, and fixing it can be a bear.

An example emerged this week when users of antivirus software made by Islandia, N.Y.-based CA Inc. watched as their machines warned of an infection and started quarantining that turned out to be legitimate.

Lee Jay Mandell, a 60-year-old retired computer consultant and patent attorney from the Los Angeles area, said the problem popped up on his computer Wednesday night. He knew something was wrong because he recognized the types of files that were being quarantined were parts of Corp.'s .

He drew on his technical experience to restore the machine, but says less adept users might stumble.

"I'm back, but it took me about six hours to get back," he said Friday.

Every antivirus company deals with false positives, and it's an embarrassment for companies whose job is to protect people's machines from sabotage. It happens because legitimate files sometimes have programming code or behaviors that are identical to those of viruses. The antivirus software spots files it believes are malicious and starts plucking them out.

The results can range from annoyance to outright meltdown of the machine if critical files are targeted. Last week some people using McAfee Inc.'s said their computers crashed because of a false positive.

McAfee said the false positive only happened on older versions of its software that are no longer supported by the company. Newer versions won't have the problem.

CA apologized for the problem Mandell and others encountered and said its last major false positive was three years ago.

"Minor false positives happen periodically, but CA has historically maintained an industry low rate of false positives," the company said in a statement.

Cleaning up a false positive detection isn't always easy. The program might do it for you. But sometimes a user might need to go into the list of quarantined files and manually rename them, or call the company to request software to do the task automatically.

CA emphasized that the files that its wrongly spotted as viruses this week were quarantined or renamed, not deleted, and "are recoverable."

The lesson: Pay close attention to your computer if it's telling you it's found a virus and is cleaning it up. You might need to call your antivirus vendor's customer support to help you make sure your machine is totally clean - or to help you recover files if the cleanup was a false alarm.

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: 'Halo' makers shed light on live-action series

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Grisoft Offers Free Rootkit Removal

Apr 11, 2007

Grisoft, makers of the popular AVG Antivirus, today released a free tool specifically aimed at eliminating malicious software that hides itself using rootkit techniques.

Protecting your Computer: Part 3 – AntiVirus

Jan 11, 2006

by Philip Dunn [ Part 1 ] [ Part 2 ] Almost everybody is aware of the need for Antivirus software, so this article will concentrate on installation issues and virus removal. ...

Don't fret about Conficker: Here's what to do

Mar 31, 2009

(AP) -- The Conficker worm, a nasty computer infection that has poisoned millions of PCs, will start ramping up its efforts Wednesday to use those machines for cybercrimes. It's unclear whether everyday PC users will even ...

Here's the way to copy e-mails to save on CDs

Mar 12, 2009

Q. I have a lot of e-mails in separate folders of my Microsoft Outlook program, and I want to take some of them off my Windows XP computer and save them on CDs. How can I do that?

Recommended for you

Watching others play video games is the new spectator sport

Aug 29, 2014

As the UK's largest gaming festival, Insomnia, wrapped up its latest event on August 25, I watched a short piece of BBC Breakfast news reporting from the festival. The reporter and some of the interviewees appeared baff ...

SHORE facial analysis spots emotions on Google Glass

Aug 28, 2014

One of the key concerns about facial recognition software has been over privacy. The very idea of having tracking mechanisms as part of an Internet-connected wearable would be likely to upset many privacy ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

frajo
1 / 5 (1) Jul 11, 2009
I'm using an operating system that doesn't need antivirus software. Never had any malware related trouble for more than 15 years.