McAfee software goes berserk

Computers in companies, hospitals and schools around the world got stuck repeatedly rebooting themselves Wednesday after an antivirus program identified a normal Windows file as a virus.

Computers in companies, hospitals and schools around the world got stuck repeatedly rebooting themselves 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. ET caused its antivirus program for corporate customers to misidentify a harmless file. It has posted a replacement update for download. “We are not aware of significant impact on consumers and believe we have effectively limited such occurrence,” the company said in a statement. Online posters begged to differ, saying thousands of computers running Windows XP with Service Pack 3 were rendered useless.

The problem caused a “campus-wide disruption” at the University of Calgary, with between 1,500 to 2,000 computers hit, the school reported.

About a third of the hospitals in Rhode Island were forced to stop treating patients without traumas in emergency rooms. The hospitals also postponed some elective surgeries, said Nancy Jean, a spokeswoman for the Lifespan system of hospitals. The system includes Rhode Island Hospital, the state’s largest, and Newport Hospital, the only hospital on Aquidneck Island. Jean said patients who required emergency care for gunshot wounds, car accidents, blunt trauma and other potentially fatal injuries were still being admitted to the emergency rooms.

In Kentucky, state police were told to shut down the computers in their patrol cars. The National Science Foundation headquarters in Arlington, Va., also lost computer access. Intel Corp. appeared to be among the victims, according to employee posts on Twitter.comment.