Alert: You should update your antivirus immediately

A Google researcher has found a flaw in a popular security product that is described as “as bad as it gets.” Anyone who doesn’t update immediately could be putting their systems at risk.

Travis Ormandy of Google’s Project Zero found multiple critical vulnerabilities across Symantec’s Endpoint Protection. Because the flaw is in the core engine, and that engine is used by all its products, that means every Symantec and Norton antivirus program is affected.

As Ormandy explains:

“These vulnerabilities are as bad as it gets. They don’t require any user interaction, they affect the default configuration, and the software runs at the highest privilege levels possible. In certain cases on Windows, vulnerable code is even loaded into the kernel, resulting in remote kernel memory corruption.”

In other words, until you update to a fixed version, your security software is actually putting your systems at risk. Ormandy goes on to say:

“It’s a 100% reliable remote exploit, effective against the default configuration in Norton Antivirus and Symantec Endpoint, exploitable just from email or the web. As the bug is in the core scan engine’s decomposer library, all Symantec and Norton branded products are affected … On Windows, this results in remote code execution as SYSTEM, and root on all other platforms.”

Antivirus updates

It’s an ongoing source of controversy for IT pros whether or not antivirus is dead. Some say it doesn’t do any real service for the most part, and in some cases may actually introduce vulnerabilities into your systems.

That said, most aren’t ready to chuck aside something that could theoretically prevent a breach. And for users especially, these products give a sense of added security (whether or not that’s a false sense of security is up for debate).

But as long as you have antivirus programs installed on your machines, it’s important to keep them up-to-date constantly. Not doing so won’t provide any added protection, but it could also expose you to even more risk.

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