This week, my hard drive suddenly became corrupt and I lost
over 35 gigabytes of information. While I was lucky enough
to salvage my most important files, the rescue operation took
over 8 hours to complete.
Did my firewall fail and allow hackers to gain control of my
system? Was I missing the latest Windows fix from Microsoft's
Windows Update web site? Did I forget to update my virus
Uncertain what caused the corruption of my hard drive, I
decided to double-check the three possibilities. I quickly
moved down the list: my firewall was up to date; there were
no new Windows updates from Microsoft. The only other option
was to ensure that my McAfee virus scanner had the latest virus
I visited the McAfee web site to check for the latest DAT
update (http://download.mcafee.com/updates/updates.asp). To my
surprise, the link which normally pointed to the latest DAT
was replaced with a link, "Upgrade to VirusScan 6.02 now!"
At the top of the page, there was a brief message which read:
"Attention VirusScan 3.x and 4.x Retail/Home users:
Your versions of VirusScan are out of date and are
no longer supported. Please Upgrade to VirusScan 6.0 now
to ensure that you are protected against new Virus
||This is the message from mcafee.com
stating all VirusScan versions 3.x and 4.x are "no longer supported."
Further down the page, there was a link which pointed to a
message from the Sr. Director of AVERT labs, Vincent Gullotto,
stating that "scan engines 4.0.50" were now obsolete:
"Official Statement from AVERT regarding engines 4.0.50
and older and their EOL (End Of Life)"
I was now certain that I had to upgrade my virus scanner. I
pondered the idea; should I decide to continue using Mcafee
as my anti-virus solution, it would cost $39.95 to upgrade -- a
mere $10 savings off the full purchase price. I remembered
hearing news that Network Associates was going to buy out
Mcafee, and wondered if this was related to the sudden push
to purchase the VirusScan 6.0 upgrade. I decided to do some
more surfing to see if I could dig up any more information
on the topic.
Recall that -- according to mcafee.com -- "4.x Retail/Home
users" were required to "upgrade to VirusScan 6.0." According
to this statement, that included the version that I was running, which was 4.03a. While surfing, I hap-hazardly stumbled upon
another McAfee web site, called McAfee "B2B" (business to
business). The web site displayed a heading directly above their
DAT update link "To Use with Version 4.03 and later Products".
Up until this point, I always relied on mcafee.com site to update
my virus definitions. Thinking that I misread some information
concerning the compatibility of my existing VirusScan and the DAT
file which was before me, I compared both sites for similar
information. I was able to come up with some interesting findings.
||If you click on the "Virus Scan 5.x and
6.x" link on the mcafee
web site, it takes you to this page where you can obtain the 4193 DAT
||This capture was taken from the mcafeeb2b
web site which shows a conflicting heading between this picture and the
What concerned me the most is that the main mcafee.com web site
had seemingly gone to great lengths to remove the SUPER DAT update
link which would not only update VirusScan to the current DAT
release, but also upgrade the scan engine to version 4.1.60 -- making
all virus scanners with at least version 4.03 still valid.
This conflicted with the information displayed on the mcafee.com
web site which stated that all users of VirusScan 4.x were
required to upgrade to 6.0.
||This is the infamous message which says
that all 3.x and 4.x VirusScan users must upgrade. Normally one of
these links would lead into the SUPER DAT update page which would not only
update the DAT, but would also update the scan engine.
I found more information on the mcafeeb2b web site that confirmed
my supposition; the page states that the 4.1.60 engine will reach
its end of life (EOL) in December 2002 -- 8 months from now
(http://www.mcafeeb2b.com/naicommon/download/eol.asp). Again, this
information conflicts with the message displayed on mcafee.com.
||Here is the End Of Life for engine
4.1.60, slated for December, 2002 -- 8 months AFTER mcafee.com says that
users are required to "upgrade to VirusScan 6.0."
Furthermore, there is a readme.txt file via the FTP download
via on the mcafeeb2b web site which states that the latest DAT
file is indeed updatable for VirusScan 4.0.3 users:
"You may use 4193XDAT.EXE to update all supported version
4.0.3 and later anti-virus product releases, including
version 4.5.x releases."
||More conflicting information from the
mcafee FTP site which states that DAT update 4193xdat.exe is supported by
Again, this finding was inconsistent with the message displayed
on the mcafee.com web site. FYI: The SUPER DAT (4113k, includes
engine update to 4.1.60) update is available from the mcafeeb2b
I found even more discrepancies in the headings provided on both
mcafee.com and mcafeeb2b.com sites regarding what scan engines
could use the current DAT. On mcafee.com, there is a heading
below the latest DAT file, "McAfee VirusScan 5.x or higher and
Dr. Solomon 8.x DAT File Update"; on the mcafeeb2b site, the
same file was listed under the heading "To Use with Version 4.x
Products". Note that although the file size is listed as being
different on both sites, they proved to be identical files. I
tested this theory by downloading each file from both sites,
compared their file sizes, and executed each file to see if they
were indeed the same. Note, however, that both 4193xdat.exe
files -- which are 1.9 megabytes each in size -- report being
a SUPER DAT file during the installation procedure, but do not
include the engine update as the SUPER DAT included at the
mcafeeb2b web site does (a 4.1 meg file):
The 4193xdat.exe for scan engines greater than 4.03 are available
here, and do not include the engine upgrade:
Confused? Maybe that's the name of the game.
I decided to look at some press releases regarding the buyout
and found two interesting articles: one from internet.com and
the other at mcafee.com. The article at internet.com said that
if Network Associates was to buy out Mcafee, they would be
"streamlining operations and eliminate confusion across business
- "Network Associates, which provides anti-virus, network
management, and help desk software, said the decision to
acquire the remainder of McAfee.com was an attempt to
streamline operations and eliminate confusion across
"As required by the federal securities laws, McAfee.com
anticipates that within ten business days after formal
commencement of the exchange offer by Network Associates,
its board of directors will advise stockholders of
McAfee.com whether it recommends acceptance or rejection of
the exchange offer..."
Does streamlining infer that I will be forced to upgrade to
version 6.0? While the evidence is not conclusive, it seems
all too convenient that during the time of a preeminent buy out,
the sudden push to have consumers upgrade to VirusScan version
6.0 is under way. More interesting is the fact that the option
to upgrade comes 8 months early before the actual end of life is
scheduled to take effect. With confusing download headers, the
absence of SUPER DAT links on the main site, and the neglect to
completely inform users of the VirusScan's true life span,
MacAfee's practice seems to be seedy and admittedly "confusing",
to say the least.
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