Anti-Virus Company Says PeerGuardian is Malware

Opinion

Over the past week, some servers used for updating the anti-virus software NOD32 were labeled as anti-p2p by a popular list maker for PeerGuardian. In response, NOD32's company, ESET, has categorised PG2 as malware in some of its latest updates.

It started off with Bluetack adding some IP addresses to its “Level 1 blocklist” that belonged to ESET (NOD32) update servers. “Level 1″ is the term that Bluetack use for their lists containing (according to site admin ‘monk’):

  • Companies (Or organizations. I won’t repeat orgs. over and over) who are clearly involved with trying to stop filesharing.
  • Companies which anti-p2p activity has been seen from.
  • Companies that produce or have a stong financial interest in copyrighted material.
  • Government ranges or companies that have a strong financial interest in doing work for governments.
  • Legal industry ranges.
  • IPs or ranges of ISPs from which anti-p2p activity has been observed.

The IP addresses added were 89.202.149.32 to 89.202.149.63, 89.202.157.88 to 89.202.157.95 and 89.202.157.128 to 89.202.157.159, according to this forum post on the NOD32 support forum. These blocked IP ranges contain many of the servers used to provide anti-virus signatures for NOD32. These were added to the blocklist for alleged anti-p2p activities. However, what kind of anti-p2p activity was taking place is unclear.

Bluetack administrator ‘m00re’ told TorrentFreak that the IPs were added because “someone noticed them on a torrent”. ‘m0nk’, another administrator later told TorrentFreak that he noticed an IP belonging to ESET on a private tracker’s movie torrent that he was on. “It was only 1 IP, but since they’re a commercial software company with a strong financial interest in copyrighted material, they go on level 1 regardless”.

However, ESET didn’t take too kindly to this disruption of its business. A representative from ESET tried to contact Bluetack, to see about the removal from the list. He later posted a screenshot of the discussion to the ESET support forum.

This was the same kind of attitude experienced by Ludvig Strigeus almost exactly two years ago, after utorrent.com was added to the Bluetack lists. Similarly by the Opentracker people, and the German Chaos Computer Club.

Based on the feedback from Bluetack, ESET added PeerGuardian to their anti-virus updates. Two signatures called Win32/PeerGuardian were added in update number 2894 on the 21st of Feb, with another 5 added in update number 2895 the following day. These updates identify the PeerGuardian application as malware, and offer the user the ability to deal with the ‘infection’. Those that do, have been unable to use PeerGuardian afterwards.

Phoenixlabs, which makes PeerGuardian, put out this statement in response. Their representatives would not comment further on the subject, referring only to the statement. Bluetack, on the other hand, have been very vocal about it. ‘m00re’ said “whomever the person/persons are that made the flawed decision to maliciously target a non threatening application like PG2 is clearly a moron.” whilst ‘firstaid’ suggested that “people call them and have them stop having their product remove PG2 from their systems.”

ESET defended the addition, “By blocking update and threatsense servers detection of PeerGuardian as potentially unwanted application is fully justified as it could disrupt normal operation of NOD32 and or ESS.”

However, ESET has now changed it’s mind, saying “We have reconsidered detection of PeerGuardian and it will be removed in the upcoming update. However, we will actively continue protecting our users from blacklists that contain the IP addresses (ranges) of our update servers and thus preventing our paying or trial users receiving updates and keeping their computers protected.”

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