Second McAfee DAT File Glitch Erodes Partner Confidence

McAfee is dealing with the aftermath of another DAT file false positive, which channel partners say has eroded confidence with their customers and provoked a demand for change in its QA processes.

This time, the McAfee VirusScan DAT file 6329 started returning false positives Wednesday afternoon, which affected SAP telephone connectivity functionality.

McAfee, now the security arm of chip giant Intel, said in a statement that it had addressed the flaw with an emergency signature update by Thursday.

"McAfee is aware that a limited number of corporate customers encountered incorrect malware alerts due to a false positive error that was introduced with our 6329 DAT signature file release on Wednesday morning Pacific Time April 27. The problem occurs with an SAP call center application. McAfee addressed the problem with an emergency signature update released Wednesday evening and a new DAT update (6330) early Thursday morning, Pacific Time. McAfee apologizes for any inconvenience to our customers."

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However, despite McAfee's efforts to remediate the error, solution providers said the incident erodes customer and partner trust in the company's products and its QA processes.

"Is the QA department asleep at the switch? You can't let the users debug everything for you," Jim Freeman, general manager of Denver, Colo.-based Attain Technologies. "It makes you wonder how much testing is going on."

Stephen Nacci, enterprise account manager for Exeter, R.I.-based TLIC Worldwide, said that McAfee "could be doing a lot better" in its remediation efforts, adding that the company should use the incident as a catalyst for change by finding a satisfactory way to compensate customers, while thoroughly examining QA processes and reinvigorating relationships within the channel.

"Maybe this will be a wakeup call," he said. "With any of the customers that got affected, they've asked or McAfee to get in front of this problem. Some of these folks are looking for real compensation, not just an extension of their subscription. I think they ought to embrace it, almost consider it an opportunity to not just make amends but deepen the relationship."

Next: Second Faulty Update Undermines Channel Trust

Freeman, a former McAfee partner, said that the latest disaster reinforced his decision to sever ties with the company several months ago and replace them with a competing vendor.

"It just reconfirmed my decision. It was a difficult one after being a McAfee partner for so long," Freeman said, adding, "This wasn't near as big as the last time they stubbed their toe. It's more like an 'oops.' They got it fixed relatively quickly."

The faulty DAT file update comes a year after McAfee issued a buggy antivirus software update that caused computers running Windows XP to shut down and experience serial reboots. The faulty update detected a false positive, causing XP computers running Service Pack 3 to somehow mistake a legitimate operating system for malware.

McAfee then had conducted extensive damage control by commissioning its channel partners to remediate the faulty update for affected customers, however the company suffered a bruised reputation and falling stocks in the wake of the DAT file disaster .

Nacci said that this time the error prompted McAfee to thoroughly re-evaluate and change its QA processes.

"I don't think they're going to let this go. The first time maybe they did. You can get overconfident. But sometimes a little humble takedown can be a good thing," he said.

However, Freeman said that while the most recent DAT glitch wasn't as significant as last year's update disaster, it would still serve to endanger frustrated users who feel compelled to disable security software entirely in order to avoid headaches created with the false positives, leaving themselves vulnerable to a myriad of security threats.

"You have the end users turning stuff off. If they're letting bad stuff through and didn’t let good stuff in, they're just going to turn this off. That's the worst of both worlds," Freeman said, adding that the latest DAT file mishap likely would have further eroded customer trust and undermined his credibility as a security advisor had he stayed with the company.

"If they don’t believe me on the McAfee front, next time I go in and make a recommendation, my credibility is in question now, and that's where it ends," he said. "I can't let McAfee take me down with them. It's become a credibility issue at this point."