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Posted on Wed, Apr 21, 2010 : 4:45 p.m.

McAfee software bug takes down thousands of University of Michigan Health System, Eastern Michigan University computers

By Tina Reed

Nearly a third of University of Michigan Health System and Medical School computers were offline for much of the day Wednesday as the system grappled with a nationwide software update problem.

Around 11 a.m., a McAfee anti-virus software update was being pushed out to computers in U-M's system when a number of computers began malfunctioning.

The problem affected users of the Window XP operating system.

U-M was just one major institution among thousands of users affected nationwide Wednesday when the McAfee antivirus software update went out. Eastern Michigan University computers were also affected, according to a statement posted on the university's website.

The statement also asked users who could access the Internet to pass along a message to those who could not access the Web to shut their machines down until a fix had been tested.

Late in the workday, U-M circulated a message about a fix for the problem that began with a mass anti-virus software update. The fix for U-M employees only called for them to reboot their computer to allow a central system to run the software fix for them.

Recipients of the e-mail were asked to verbally communicate the message to their colleagues who were unable to access their e-mail.

• See the Twitter buzz about the problem at

U-M computer staff members were able to remotely stop the update before it affected additional users, U-M Health System spokeswoman Kara Gavin said.

In all, about 8,000 of 25,000 computers in the system were taken offline by the problem, she said.

No patient care was was compromised Wednesday because enough computers remained running to perform necessary functions, she said. Some areas did have to use paper or share computers.

St. Joseph Mercy hospital in Superior Township was not affected by the problem.

In a statement, McAfee apologized for the inconvenience and said a fix was available for the problem.

"In the past 24 hours, McAfee identified a new threat that impacts Windows PCs," the statement said. "The research team created detection and removal to address this threat. The remediation passed our quality testing."

Tina Reed covers health and the environment for You can reach her at, call her at 734-623-2535 or find her on Twitter @TreedinAA.


Captain Magnificent

Thu, Jul 22, 2010 : 12:39 p.m.

I've had nothing but Macs since 1992- I've never owned a Windows PC. I use them for work, but that's it- if I'm not getting paid for it I'm using a Mac. I haven't run AntiVirus on any of my Macs since around 2003 and I haven't had a single problem with Malware, Viruses, Trojan Horses, Spyware, or anything else like that. I haven't ever known a single Mac user who had problems with Malware or anything else. Why? I think some of it can be attributed to the built in security features of the OS, while another part of it is security by obscurity... although the Mac market share has been increasing over the last few years and they still haven't had many high-profile problems. I agree that Macs aren't totally immune, but they're a whole heck of a lot closer to being immune than Windows is.

Steve Pierce

Wed, Jul 21, 2010 : 5:51 p.m.

Snow, Here are couple of Mac Viri snatched of a virus list. Each of these meet your definition of self replication. One is proof of concept with short life span, the other is in the wild. Mac OS X Virus: Inqtana.A Worm OSX/Inqtana.A is a Java-based worm that exploits the directory traversal vulnerability in the Bluetooth file and object exchange services in Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger). Leap.A aka Oompa-Loompa virus The Leap.A (aka Oompa-Loompa) infects applications in Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger) running on PowerPC processors. Even the Melissa virus infected PC's and Macs. Now we can get into huge debates on the definition of worm, virus, malware and it will start looking like the debate over the meaning of the word 'is'. Frankly who cares. Is there bad stuff out there that can infect your Mac, the answer is Yes and if you believe the guy that says "don't work, Macs never get infected", well, I have a bridge up north I would like to sell you. Make you a good deal on it, just barely 50 years old, one owner, freshly painted. It's a steal. That said, virus are no longer a huge threat on PC's or Mac's either. Malware is the bigger threat and when it comes to Malware vulnerabilities, Mac and PC are both very vulnerable. But these Mac PC debates are like people arguing Ford vs. Chevy. No matter what one person says, the other takes offense. I tell folks the same thing about computers as I do about cars. If you are going to own a fleet of cars, make them all the same. Makes it cheaper to buy, cheaper to work on, cheaper to repair, and cheaper to train your folks to use and support. Same goes with computers in a business or organization. I don't care if you buy PC or Mac. Both are great. Standardize on PC or Mac and standardize your OS too. Your operational costs will be significantly lower compared to an organization that tries to support both. Cheers! - Steve


Sun, Apr 25, 2010 : 11:23 a.m.

Whats sad is they, Mcafee, made such light of it! Being an IT person at UMHS, it has been overwhelming in going to every computer to apply the fix. With that said, it was a truly remarkable sight to see so many folks from w/in our IT area, come together to help get our customers back up and running ASAP.

Snarf Oscar Boondoggle

Sat, Apr 24, 2010 : 4:39 p.m.

teh virusbusters did a pretty good job combating this... kudos, etc.


Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 12:30 p.m.

pardon my ignorance, but it's my understanding that this faulty update will not affect personal, stand alone PCs. is that true? i have McAfee installed and use windows XP on my home PC. my computer was in shut down mode all day yesterday and i've yet to turn it on for fear it'll crash. are my fears unfounded? Thanks!


Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 10:29 a.m.

I got rid of McAfee when my computer just stopped. I called my computer guy and he told me it was because the constant updates had filled up the space and pushed everything else aside. After he cleaned McAfee out, he installed a free program and lo and behold, my PC was up and running again.


Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 9:03 a.m.

Macs are not immune to viruses or really much more secure than Windows machines. In some ways Windows 7 is actually more secure than Mac OS X. However, nobody seems to write Mac viruses because Macs account for less than 10% of computers sold each year. Sure, there have been one or two proofs of concept, but really nothing in the wild. Old-timers may remember the infamous Mac WDEF virus spread by floppy disks back in the late 1980s. Someone likened the difference to having a house in the country where you leave the doors unlocked to a house in the city with bars on the windows. The analogy is essentially correct. The way virus protection software works is a complete and utter failure of imagination. Rather than truly securing the computer and limiting the damage any application or driver can do, virus protection software scans for known viruses using simple fingerprints. This makes it easy to write new viruses, which in turn actually helps the antivirus companies sell more subscriptions. Automatically installing software updates, while good in some ways, is astoundingly dangerous in others. I usually advise people to wait a week before updating except for particularly bad security holes. For a huge institution like the UMich Medical Center, though, delaying updates can be just as dangerous as installing them since hackers always try and take advantage of newly found vulnerabilities quickly.

Matthew R.

Thu, Apr 22, 2010 : 7:49 a.m.

The McAfee problem was pretty crippling, but the IT folks in my department were able to fix it pretty quickly once a solution was posted. It was only taking about 10 minutes per computer to resolve, which is quite nice. BTW, you'll note this is a comment on the actual article, and not yet another fanboy Mac vs. Windows post.


Wed, Apr 21, 2010 : 11:32 p.m.

I have been using Macs since 1986. Never had virus protection, never had a virus. I provide my own support and the UMHS spends millions supporting Windoz. It's a dog, Macs are great. End of story.


Wed, Apr 21, 2010 : 10:01 p.m.

Windows Schindows, the problem with EMU's computers is that they're not updated very often and often prone to failure due to the amount of care they receive. McAfee is a problem because it's just bloatware that barely works well in an Enterprise environment. Comcast hands out the stuff because nobody will pay money for that. Macs also have issues with viruses. They're not focused on because their market share compared to Windows is small. Using the logic seen so far, you could also avoid viruses by using a Linux distro and saving your cash.

Jon Saalberg

Wed, Apr 21, 2010 : 7:40 p.m.

Well if you have Windows, you're going to have problems. I have rarely met a Windows user who didn't complain about all the viruses their computer had, or about having to have someone clean all that junk off their computer. I've heard many people say that "that's the way it is because everyone uses Windows." And IT people will continue to receive many, many calls, and be happily employed. My wife has worked at two sites that don't have that many computers, and both use Windows and both have IT personnel. It's just a fact of life - if you have multiple Windows installations, you're going to need an IT person to keep those things happy. Macs are pretty happy without IT people.

Peter Nelson

Wed, Apr 21, 2010 : 5:37 p.m.

If anybody knows where people are "dumping" MacBook Pros, please let me know!

Steve Pierce

Wed, Apr 21, 2010 : 5:21 p.m.

I guess this article from 2006 is wrong then. First ever virus for Mac OS X discovered - Steve


Wed, Apr 21, 2010 : 4:57 p.m.

Ehh, I've watched friends' Macs get taken down by computer stuff too. Two in particular finally had to dump their Macbook pros and get new ones. Macs aren't immune, even though the commercials want to get you to believe otherwise. Also, that people who pay all that extra money for a Mac are "hip."


Wed, Apr 21, 2010 : 4:33 p.m.

They discovered a solution to this problem years ago. It's call Macintosh.

Macabre Sunset

Wed, Apr 21, 2010 : 4:24 p.m.

I received a "free" copy of McAfee Anti-Virus with my new computer last summer. The update process is so obnoxious - complete with pop-up ads telling me I can get a deal for renewing early - that I removed the product and switched to using a free competitor a few months ago. Problems solved. McAfee has a bad reputation deservedly. I'm surprised IT specialists from our major universities would still go this route.