Microsoft's anti-virus deletes your email

Written by Brett Thomas

March 12, 2007 | 10:14

Tags: #anti-virus #live #onecare #windows

Companies: #microsoft

We've all wondered exactly how bad Microsoft's Windows Live OneCare virus protection would be. At the time, several of us spotted a (rather blatant) conflict of interest, even.

After all, essentially a virus is a self-replicating exploit of the host operating system - which Microsoft made. Of course, most of us expected that MS probably wouldn't do the virus protection well enough to worry about - wow, we were all right!

Apparently there are still a couple bugs in the bug-catcher. Most notably, users of OneCare should beware of disappearing email. The software is designed to screen emails for harmful attachments before they can be run, but something must have gone oh-so-slightly awry. Complaints have surfaced around the internet stating that OneCare deleted the "outlook.pst" file, which holds the entire local storage of email.

The initial damage may be recoverable (the program actually quarantines it to start with) but apparently further "help" from the MS support line has rendered data well beyond repair for many victims who called for help. Microsoft did not comment officially on the problem until last Friday, where it said simply that "This issue will be fixed in the next engine update, scheduled for Tuesday, March 13." Aw, isn't that nice?

Aside from the promise of an update on Tuesday, Microsoft has been silent about both the issue and its tech-support stumbles. Many people who are suffering from the problem are saying that the cure did more damage than a virus ever would have (though that is a little bit of a stretch depending on the virus). The news comes at a bad time for OneCare, which has already taken recent fire for being last-place of all larger-name antivirus brands (15th out of 15 tested).

Redmond has stated a small workaround to the problem, though it requires entering a manual "exemption" from the program's virus sweep. We haven't personally tested whether this fix actually ends up disabling your email from being scanned at all, or just disables the hard-drive scan of the Outlook files.

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