According to Yahoo news computers in a host of companies, hospitals and schools around the world got were brought down, re-booting themselves over and over again on Wednesday after an antivirus program identified a normal Windows file as a virus.
McAfee Inc. confirmed that a software update it posted at 9 a.m. Eastern time caused its antivirus program for corporate customers to misidentify a harmless file, home users were not effected.
McAfee could not say how many computers were affected, but judging by online postings, the number was at least in the thousands and possibly in the hundreds of thousands.
The company says it is investigating how the error happened “and will take measures” to prevent it from recurring.
The virus protection software problem forced about a “third of the hospitals in Rhode Island to postpone elective surgeries and stop treating patients without traumas in emergency rooms,” said Nancy Jean, a spokeswoman for the Lifespan system of hospitals.
In Kentucky, state police were told to shut down the computers in their patrol cars as technicians tried to fix the problem. The National Science Foundation headquarters in Arlington, Va., also lost computer access.
It’s not uncommon for anti-virus programs to mis-label safe files but an occurrence of this magnitude is rare.
McAfee posted a fix to the issue in a form of a download but the fix had to be installed individually at each computer since the computers weren’t receptive to remote software updates when stuck in the reboot cycle.