Diary of a mad McAfee antivirus victim

McAfee does not intend to release the number of customers impacted by the faulty DAT update

As if McAfee's bad antivirus update last week wasn't bad enough, some customers were none too happy with how the security vendor's tech support handled the situation either.

David Hellen, an independent contractor for the U.S. Navy who heads his own SAP configuration business, says last Wednesday when he noticed that his Dell Latitude running Windows XP wouldn't boot straight into Windows, he knew he had to try and figure out what was going on. He saw news stories about the McAfee antivirus update snafu, which involved the faulty DAT 5958 file, and called his McAfee Gold Service phone number for help.

"After waiting 20 minutes in the queue, they connected me to India and I got a service technician," says Hellen, whose business is called David J. Hellen & Associates. "The first thing they said is, 'You have a virus.' I said I think I have that DAT thing. They told me to run scans."

Hellen says he ended up calling Dell because he has a contract with that vendor for support, and the technician there helped adjust the machine to prevent automatic shutdown so it would boot into Windows. But he still lacked some services, such as support for his security card reader, which he needs, especially since he works as a Department of Defense contractor.

"I phoned the McAfee guy back and we ran the McAfee scan, and we came up with nothing," Hellen says. "We tried the SuperDAT tool and that didn't work, and the 5959 update. It still didn't solve it." The McAfee technician told him he needed to escalate to "Tier 2 support."

Due to his work schedule, Hellen had to postpone more attempts at remediation until the weekend, so when he called McAfee tech support back then, he was surprised to learn that Tier 2 support doesn't work on Sunday. "I said, you have to be kidding me," he notes.

On Monday, April 26, McAfee tech support did contact Hellen and a technician took full control of his computer and uninstalled the antivirus software using what Hellen viewed as a "special cleaner they have to uninstall." McAfee was completely uninstalled and then reinstalled, he says.

While he appreciated that, and McAfee's effort did seem to restore his computer to full service, "what ticked me off' was that he got an e-mail from McAfee about his case, which he believes doesn't accurately represent his interactions with the vendor.The McAfee e-mail stated: "Customer called in that computer is infected by virus" and that the "severity rating" was "Business not affected."

That simply is not what occurred, says Hellen, who wants the notation of his status changed in the McAfee file to reflect what he feels is a more accurate representation -- that his business was impacted, and especially that his computer uses special software provided by the Defense Department.

Hellen is also upset that McAfee CEO Dave DeWalt issued a formal apology for the faulty antivirus update, saying that thousands of McAfee employees were working around the clock. But from Hellen's experience Tier 2 tech support didn't seem to be working on Sunday, even in the wake of a situation that McAfee itself caused.

McAfee had no immediate response related to McAfee Tier 2 support, but a spokesman did say the company is "investigating" Hellen's case.

McAfee does not intend to release the number of customers impacted by the faulty DAT update. The vendor announced Tuesday it will offer a free one-year subscription to its automated security health-check platform, an assessment of the security in the organization, on a case-by-case basis, to eligible corporate customers.

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