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Microsoft security tools deleting Google Chrome from Windows PCs

Microsoft Forefront Endpoint Protection -- Win32/Zbot -- Google Chrome

Hundreds of Google Chrome users (at least) found their Internet browser of choice removed from their Windows PCs on Friday after Microsoft deleted the Web-surfing app.

And no, Microsoft didn't start pushing out Chrome because it's gaining market share and posing a threat to Internet Explorer.

Microsoft said in an emailed statement that the Chrome removals took place due to a mistake on the part of its Microsoft Security Essentials software for Windows.

The Times has found that not only Microsoft Security Essentials but also Microsoft's Forefront Endpoint Protection software can remove Google Chrome as a malware threat. This matches up with reporting from the website ZDnet, which broke news of the Chrome problems Friday morning.

The software errors wrongly spot Chrome as malware to be removed from PCs. For affected users, who have included a couple of Times staffers, simply trying to reinstall Chrome doesn't solve the problem. Instead, Microsoft's software removes the browser again.

The Windows-maker, however, said that an update to Microsoft Security Essentials' software has been pushed out to the Web and it's working on making everything well again.

Here's the explanation from Microsoft:

On September 30th, 2011, an incorrect detection for PWS:Win32/Zbot was identified and as a result, Google Chrome was inadvertently blocked and in some cases removed from customers PCs. We worked quickly to provide an updated signature (1.113.672.0) at 9:57 am PDT to fix this issue.  Affected customers should manually update Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) with the latest signatures. To do this, simply launch MSE, go to the update tab and click the Update button, and then reinstall Google Chrome. We apologize for the inconvenience this may have caused our customers.

Google, for its part, published a blog post on the matter, explaining to Chrome users in a series of steps how to reinstall the browser after Microsoft's mistake.

It's also working on releasing an update to Chrome to help protect the browser from the buggy version of Microsoft Security Essentials.

From Google's blog post:

Earlier today, we learned that the Microsoft Security Essentials tool began falsely identifying Google Chrome as a piece of malware ("PWS:Win32/Zbot") and removing it from people's computers.

If Chrome is working correctly for you, then there's no need to take any action.

We are releasing an update that will automatically repair Chrome for affected users over the course of the next 24 hours.

So were you affected? If so, did you see the problem with Microsoft Security Essentials or Microsoft Forefront Endpoint Protection? If Chrome was removed, but you're back up and running in Chrome now, are your bookmarks and other data still around or wiped out? Sound off in the comments.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Twitter.com/nateog

Image: A screen shot of Microsoft Forefront Endpoint Protection wrongly identifying Google Chrome as malware in its "Win32/Zbot" error. Credit: Paul Olund / Los Angeles Times

 
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