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March 11th, 2009

Norton’s Unsigned pifts.exe Update Triggered Firewalls And Caused Panic

Symantec confessed that it sent users of Norton Antivirus software into a frenzy by triggering their firewalls with an unsigned security patch. In what Symantec called, “a case of human error,” a diagnostic patch named PIFTS.exe was sent out “unsigned”, causing firewalls to prompt the user for access to the Internet.

Spooked users trying to figure out if they’d been targeted by some kind of hack began bombarding Symantec message boards for information. The folks at Symantec didn’t help and reportedly deleted any posts or queries relating to the problem on their forums.

The company has apparently even resorted to banning further posts from anyone attempting to mention pifts.exe, as one user said. Other users reported that Symantec helpdesk staff have told them that the file is a normal update to Norton.

“The patch caused understandable concern for users,” wrote Symantec’s Dave Cole who complained that his message boards were then inundated. “Within minutes, several dozen user accounts were created commenting on the initial thread, and/or creating new threads on the topic. Over the next few hours, over 200 user accounts were created. Within the first hour there were 600 new posts on the subject.”

Dave branded the miffed posters “spammers” although he said “there were no malicious links and it simply resulted in a widespread communications challenge for Symantec.”

Symantec said it released the patch for “approximately” three hours to Norton Internet Security and Antivirus users on March 9, 2009 and that releasing a patch unsigned is an extremely rare occurrence.

Credit: The Inquirer

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