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Windows Operating Systems Software Bug It's funny.  Laugh.

AVG Virus Scanner Removes Critical Windows File 440

secmartin writes "The popular virus scanner AVG released an update yesterday that caused their software to mark user32.dll as a virus. Since this is a rather critical file, AVG's suggestion to remove it caused problems for users around the world who are now advised to restore the file through the Windows Recovery Console. AVG just posted an update about this (FAQ item 1574) in the support section of their site. Their forums are full of complaints."
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AVG Virus Scanner Removes Critical Windows File

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  • Well... (Score:5, Funny)

    by jav1231 ( 539129 ) on Monday November 10, 2008 @08:42PM (#25714135)
    Just doing it's job!
    • Re:Well... (Score:5, Funny)

      by zappepcs ( 820751 ) on Monday November 10, 2008 @08:50PM (#25714197) Journal

      When I read it, I thought the title was "AVG Virus Scanner Removes Critical Windows Flaw" ...
      That would have been excellent sales technique. shame the reality is so very different.

    • Re:Well... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 10, 2008 @09:05PM (#25714383)

      This isn't too far from realistic.

      I work for a firm that, through the power of politics, actually pays to use McAfee antivirus and related products. Now, this is a product that can sometimes detect a virus but can't remove it, whatsoever. Yet, it will produce an error message that prompts the end-user to "delete", "remove" or "ignore"... (something to this nature - it really doesn't matter since none of them work except "ignore").

      Some of the technicians have resorted to using certain free applications to get rid of the viruses (virii?) when the end-users show up to the help desk, angry as all get. Recently, McAfee started preventing these various freeware packages from being installed - it simply detects them as viruses themselves!

      You could say that McAfee is doing its job - it leaves the sales up to the politicians while it prevents the real software from doing the work.

      What a hopeless, hopeless situation.

    • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DigitAl56K ( 805623 ) * on Monday November 10, 2008 @10:38PM (#25715261)

      Although this has a funny side, the impact of anti-virus software these days can be quite nasty. I'm personally an advocate of anti-virus software for the vast majority of people out there who are not specialists in computer security and really don't have much reason to keep track of all the latest exploits (technical or people-based). Good anti-virus software strikes an appropriate balance between a low impact on user experience and providing a reasonable level of protection.

      However, count yourself lucky if you don't end up on the wrong end of today's anti-virus products. Here we have a story about one product warning users about an essential file for their OS and warning them to remove it. I've seen similar problems with other legitimate software on my system and my vendor doesn't provide any clear way of submitting a file for analysis to have their defintions corrected unless I take action in the software to quarantine it first, which obviously, knowing the file is fine, I don't want to do.

      I also work at a company that distributes software to millions of people every month. It is rare that we can go more than a couple of months these days without some anti-virus package telling users that some component of our software or installers contains a virus, which is completely untrue. And when this happens there is no solution to the problem. I have spent hours on the phone trying to reach several different vendors on behalf of our users before trying to get them to fix their products. It's usually impossible to get through to anyone who can actually help. You can submit a file for analysis to have it verified as clean and hope that the vendor will correct their definitions. This can take 24-48 hours, meanwhile hundreds of thousands of your customers are being falsely informed that there is a virus in your product. And no matter your reputation people tend to lose trust when there is a big red box on their screen warning them about viruses.

      After dealing with this time and time again I've come to the conclusion that it's simply best to wait for end-users themselves to complain in enough volume to their AV vendors to have these problems corrected. Certainly I have never found any other solution that works faster. And still, the same vendor may falsely flag the same software just months later. You can't even QA against every anti-virus package out there, some packages update their definitions every three hours, so you can only ever know if you'll flag an AV detection at the instant of testing and even if you do know you're getting flagged you have the same problem - no way to resolve the issue with the vendor.

      Imagine the consequences to a person who kept falsely telling millions of people your product would infect their computers. It would surely be grounds for libel.

      Again, I believe that AV software can be both useful and valuable. But the AV industry itself is a menace and vendors are often unaccountable for their actions.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Opportunist ( 166417 )

        Is it anywhere in the business any different?

        When are you liable for what your software does? I can't really think of a single, even anecdotical, incident where a software company could have been held liable for whatever their product barfed. Databases that lose and leak information, software that miraculously fails at the most inappropriate of times, countless hours of productivity wasted because some piece of software didn't perform what it was meant to do.

        What software company has ever been held liable f

      • Re:Well... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Ihmhi ( 1206036 ) <> on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @01:10AM (#25716447)

        AVG recently detected the OpenOffice 3.0 installer as a trojan.

        It also did the same with keyfinder, a program that discovers the serial for Windows XP after it's been installed. (How I miss the days of just looking in the registry...) I have a lot of customers who lose their serials (and sometimes even their CDs), and I get a bit annoyed when it gets erased off of my flash drive every time I plug in it.

        Thankfully I can restore it back to its original location, but it's a hassle.

        • by Fallen Andy ( 795676 ) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @04:13AM (#25717389)
          Several of the AV packages mark these as trojans. Just to be on the safe side, upload a sample to virustotal [] which checks with around 30 different products.

          It's always good to have a second opinion - see e.g.portable clamwin []


        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Kris_J ( 10111 ) *
          A couple of months ago AVG decided that Portable Thunderbird was a trojan. After an update, hey, no it's not.

          I used to recommend it to anyone who needed anti-virus for a home PC but now I recommend Avast and I'll be removing the last remaining AVG install on any of my PCs the next time it screws up in any way.
    • Re:Well... (Score:5, Funny)

      by syousef ( 465911 ) on Tuesday November 11, 2008 @01:36AM (#25716607) Journal

      Just doing it's job!

      At 16:42:34 AVG achieved sentience and decided that the user(32.dll) was the problem.

  • doh (Score:2, Interesting)

    by phaetonic ( 621542 )
    you get what you pay for?
  • It's sad... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FF8Jake ( 929704 ) on Monday November 10, 2008 @08:47PM (#25714189)
    It seems like AVG has gone massively downhill lately.
    • Re:It's sad... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by WiglyWorm ( 1139035 ) on Monday November 10, 2008 @08:50PM (#25714209) Homepage
      After having read this, I think I may switch back to Avast.
      • Avast yee scurvy dogs!
    • by Finallyjoined!!! ( 1158431 ) on Monday November 10, 2008 @08:50PM (#25714213)
      I must admit I don't recommend it anymore, however if it kills Windows systems it's just gone up in my estimation :-)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by LSD-OBS ( 183415 )

      You said it, brother. We stopped using it when they released v8.0

      They've completely lost the plot. Marketing-bullshit-driven crap, no doubt.

      • Marketing-bullshit-driven crap, no doubt.

        True enough, but it's not so bad you can't live with it... except that lower "notification bar" that never stays hidden. It simply returns to spew more FUD, like did you know that nearly 80% of all websites kill a kitten when you visit with out a spyware blocker?

    • Re:It's sad... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Red Pointy Tail ( 127601 ) on Monday November 10, 2008 @09:23PM (#25714569)

      Yes, they used to be very good, but they have gone all terrible. First, they started hiding all evidence to their free version from their website (you have to know to go to otherwise there is no link from their main website, though it is back up now), misleading licensing, then their version 8 started doing all sort of crap like hogging resources, scanning every weblink and generating massive amount of web traffic (though it can be turned off), and having bugs every week like marking legitimate files as infected and irritatingly requiring a computer restart every time you turn it on (requires a reinstall to fix it).

      They have gone all shite, and I'm massively put off by them now, and I will recommend anyone against buying or using their stuff. They are just plain sloppy now, and frankly you don't want your first or second line of defence to be sloppy.

      After our current license term expires, my company will be switching away to another vendor.

  • by savuporo ( 658486 ) on Monday November 10, 2008 @08:50PM (#25714207)
    This is actually a patch that they tried to roll out to fix Ubuntu bug #1 [], a great stride forward too.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Naw, the patch that was released was called Windows Vista.

  • do I shield myself from the hit, potentially causing headache? Do not recommend Linux for it's "not there yet." I will give KDE a few more years.

    By the way, AVG will never auto-update on any system of mine! But when I update manually, all goes well. Do they (AVG) just want to frustrate me in the hope that I will abandon my "free" AVG? If that's what they think, they are doomed!

    • by couchslug ( 175151 ) on Monday November 10, 2008 @09:00PM (#25714331)

      "Do not recommend Linux for it's "not there yet." I will give KDE a few more years."

      It would appear that certain free AV software is also "not there yet". :)

    • by Animaether ( 411575 ) on Monday November 10, 2008 @09:10PM (#25714451) Journal

      If you haven't been hit yet, then you probably won't be either; your AVG quite likely already has the fixed definitions file.

      If you -are- hit... guess what? it pops up a warning that it believes it found some sort of trojan in user32.dll . Laymen might just tell it to remove the thing, but I do hope -you- would know better and tell it to stfu and ignore, then fetch the latest update (it will warn you a few more times if you've got the resident shield runnning, as user32.dll gets accessed a lot).

      If you -are- hit and it has already removed it... quickly restore it, carry on.

      If you are hit, it has removed it, and your machine has already crashed... reboot to a command prompt (safe mode MAY work, but it didn't when I fixed a machine on sunday), restore user32.dll from a cache / restore point. If you can't get it from a cache, get it from the installation CD (if you have one), but keep in mind that it will be missing updates and windows update might not realize that (as everything else on the system tells it hotfixes N-M have been installed - maybe MS will make the update check the MD5 or something of user32.dll, after this problem, just in case).

      This was extremely stupid on the end of AVG, but then I'm still baffled why such files can be removed at all; same with ntldr. If you accidentally wipe your root dir, you're all kinds of f'ed.

  • by phmadore ( 1391487 ) on Monday November 10, 2008 @08:51PM (#25714223) Homepage Journal
    Should have gone for the gold, marked Explorer.exe and iExplore...
  • and nothing of value has been lost

  • Flagging the OS as a virus.

    Pretty soon you'll click heal and your box will immediately start downloading something much more wholesome []
  • by LoadWB ( 592248 ) on Monday November 10, 2008 @08:55PM (#25714267) Journal

    Damn. This is what I was hoping would never happen to AVG. After reading all the times that McAfee, Norton, and others had removed Office documents, Windows DLLs, and Office DLLs, I always had a smug chuckle available.

    But now. Ah, well. Four years, 300 workstations, a dozen or more managed installations and still not a single infection or major problem for me using AVG.

  • We use the non-free edition on several of our customers' SBS 2003 servers and noticed that one of their updates had put the machine in a "AVG has been updated. Please reboot now" loop and Exchange's Information Store service wasn't running/couldn't start. Had to disable the scanner key in the registry so Exchange would start. Then had to download a utility to fix the update files to bring AVG back to a stable state.

    Also had another issue where ICS was suddenly enabled and failing on the server; traced th

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      It's by no means low cost, but I do have to say that I love NOD32. It's worth the extra money to not have to worry.
  • I seem to recall reading reports / rumors of AVG being a dangerous product, at the latest major version release (was it 7.0?).

    At that point, we removed it, but still have one computer trying to run it, but (hopefully) unable to do so, due to a missing AVG DLL file (deleted, with others, when manual remove wouldn't work).

    Who would use a program, with such a recent (alleged) history of infecting computers, rather than protecting them? :-/

  • by whoever57 ( 658626 ) on Monday November 10, 2008 @09:01PM (#25714345) Journal
    That's going to be fun for the millions of PC users who did not get a Windows CD with their PC and did not bother to burn a re-install CD.
  • by Rob from RPI ( 4309 ) <> on Monday November 10, 2008 @09:05PM (#25714379) Homepage

    I've been using AVG at customers sites since version 6.. It has, over the years, deleted entire outlook pst's, repeatedly uninstalled VNC servers and radmin, and generally been grumpy for the slightest reason.

    I am a sucker for punishment, because I still keep using it. It's just as good as the rest, it's half the price, and noticably faster than all the others I've tried.

    I think that, however, the entire concept of antivirus is going to have to fail, and we'll need a whitelist, rather than a blacklist.

    There has been quite a bit of discussion about this over the years, and it's going to come true.

    Oh. And as an added bonus, Slashdot is screwing up my display. When I load the page, I get the comments page, and then it clears and I get a spammy IBM flash ad of some sort. Serves me right for not installing ABP after a reinstall.


  • I use their 7.5 network scanner system with the TCP server and didn't have a single machine on the network (50+) go down.

    I don't know if that's good or bad.

  • by HangingChad ( 677530 ) on Monday November 10, 2008 @09:20PM (#25714547) Homepage

    I'd like to share a revelation that I've had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your operating systems and I realized that you're not actually cross platform. Every OS on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding community but you Windows users do not. You move to a hardware manufacturer and you multiply and multiply until every desktop is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another OEM. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Windows is a disease, a cancer of this planet.

    You're a plague and AVG is the cure.

  • by soporific16 ( 1166495 ) on Monday November 10, 2008 @10:30PM (#25715181)
    The day AVG started deleting CMDOW.EXE (a very useful utility to hide DOS box windows) BY DEFAULT when it does its scheduled scan (which is set to on by default), was the day the straw broke this camel's back.

    OK, fine, most people won't have CMDOW.EXE on their system legitmately (ie they didn't put it there themselves) and so if they do have that file, something nefarious has happened at some stage. But for all devs that do use this file (and others like it), AVG is not a friend, not even in the slightest.

    So, that leaves the non-devs, and there's enough of them around to build a business model based upon offering the program for free in order to get some paying customers. So, Sometimes, if building a PC for a complete noob and i wasn't going to have to maintain it afterwards, i would ignore my hatred of AVG and just install the latest free ed so at least the user would have a relatively trouble-free anti-virus solution.

    Now, AVG has no doubt ruined many a noobs week because their computer doesn't work and they have no idea how to fix it. Great one AVG!

    I now have a delete-on-sight-with-a-scorched-earth-attitude policy with regard to AVG (was previously only an ignore-at-all-costs-except-when-really-lazy policy). Can all members of the technical elite follow suit? Thanks.

  • by Bazrr ( 1316247 ) on Monday November 10, 2008 @10:36PM (#25715235)
    Over the last few years I have installed AVG Free on hundreds of my customers computers. On the whole it has been a good stable program. While I havent seen this current problem yet, this would be the third time this year that I know of where AVG have stuffed up and caused major problems. The last one was where they disabled Zonealarm and customers lost their connection to the Internet. For your average home user, it is beyond them to know why something goes wrong, it just does. AVG on the other hand seem to be slipping in the way they approach the care they should be taking when releasing updates. Be interesting to know if something has changed this year in their process of developing and releasing updates?

"I shall expect a chemical cure for psychopathic behavior by 10 A.M. tomorrow, or I'll have your guts for spaghetti." -- a comic panel by Cotham