Chinese users sue Symantec over update blunder

At least two lawsuits seeking compensation have been filed against Symantec by Chinese users whose PCs were crippled by a faulty virus update last month, the company has confirmed.

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At least two lawsuits seeking compensation have been filed against Symantec by Chinese users whose PCs were crippled by a faulty virus update last month, the company has confirmed.

According to reports filed by the state-controlled Xinhua news service, a lawyer in southern China and another user in Beijing have submitted lawsuits to local courts. Liu Shihui, a lawyer with the firm Hongmian in southern Guangdong, is seeking 1,644 Renminbi (£107) as compensation for technical help he had to hire to restore his Windows XP machine to working order.

The second lawsuit's plaintiff was not identified, but Xinhua said the filing sought 50,000 Renminbi (£3,290)for data lost on a laptop running Symantec antivirus software.

Cris Paden, a spokesman for the Cupertino, Calif.-based security company, confirmed the two lawsuits but had no other information. "There are two we know about," he said.

Symantec's China troubles started on 18 May, when it delivered a flawed virus-signature update to customers running the Simplified Chinese edition of Windows XP Service Pack 2. The new signatures mistook two critical system files as a Trojan horse and quarantined both files.

That in turn crippled Windows and made the machines impossible to reboot. Symantec reworked the update and re-released it the same day, but the fix was too late for many machines. Those systems needed new copies of the two files restored to the hard drive in order to start up.

An automated threat analysis system was to blame for creating the buggy signature update, which incapacitated thousands -- maybe millions -- of Chinese computers.

Within a week, Symantec representatives on the scene had left the door open to compensating users. Once technical support staff had helped get PCs back up and running, said Vincent Weafer, a senior director of Symantec's security response team, the company would consider other issues."

"We're haven't decided" on any compensation plans, said Paden this week. "We're still reaching out to customers. There were a lot of ripple effects, as you'd imagine, and we're also contacting the appropriate government agencies to answer any of their questions."

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