Norton comes clean about PIFTS.EXE



March 10th, 2009

Yesterday Norton Internet Security/AntiVirus started noticing a file called PIFTS.EXE running on their system. Within moments customers started posting questions about this file on Norton's community forum. Then, mysteriously, admins on the forum started to delete those messages (fortunately Google has a long memory).

Within moments a storm of conspiracy theories whipped up.

So, what was this mysterious file? Symantec explains:

Dave Cole, senior director of product management at Symantec, said the PIFTS file was part of a "diagnostics patch" shipped to Norton customers on Monday evening. The purpose of the update, Cole said, was to hep determine how many customers would need to be migrated to newer versions of its software as more Windows users upgrade to Windows 7.

"We have to make sure before we migrate users to a new product that we can see what kind of load we can expect on our servers, and which customers are going to have to be moved up to the latest version of our product," Cole said.

As to why Symantec has been deleting posts about this from their user forum, Cole said the company noticed that minutes after the update went out hundreds of new users began registering on the forum, leaving inane and sometimes abusive comments.

"We want to be out there in the community, but by the same token, if we see abuse we will shut it down pretty quickly," Cole said. "There was no attempt at secrecy here, but people were spamming the forum and making it unusable to everyone."

This is an example of how to get PR wrong. How long would it have taken Symantec to have put out a statement explaining the situation. This would have diffused the hassles and conspiracy theories right off the bat. It would have been easier than messing about trying to silence customers posting on a forum about a product they've paid for (no matter how inelegantly they made their point!).

This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 10th, 2009 at 20:05 and is filed under PC Doctor's Thoughts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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