Archive for the ‘Antivirus Issues’ Category

Command-line options removed from the official release of my password-recovery tools

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

As you may already know, the password recovery tools provided by NirSoft are constantly detected by many Antivirus programs as malware/Trojan/Virus or as a security risk.
Usually, the detection is not done by mistake. The Antivirus companies deliberately add these utilities to their database, because in addition to their legitimate use of recovering passwords, these programs can also be used for malicious purposes, like stealing passwords from another person, and thus the Antivirus companies see them as a threat to the user.

In the past, the Virus alerts problem only affected users who have Antivirus program running in the background, but today... the problem is much more complicated.
It started 2 years ago, when Google acquired VirusTotal, a known Web site that scans files with all major Antivirus engines, and displays the result from all of them in one page.
It seems that now Google uses VirusTotal technology to decide whether a file is good or bad. If a file is detected by a lot of Antivirus engines, then it's considered as Malware by the Malware detection system of Google.

Chrome and Firefox, the 2 most popular Web browsers today, already use the Malware detection system of Google for every downloaded file, so if Google system detects the downloaded file as malware, the Web browser blocks the download and displays a warning saying that the file is malicious. Recently, I constantly get messages from people like "My Web browser blocks your software, please sent it to me by email", which is quite annoying. In additional to the password-recovery tools downloaded separately, NirLauncher package is also frequently blocked by Chrome and Firefox, simply because it contains the same password-recovery tools.

But this is not the only problem... In the last week, I had 3 days that my Web site was blocked for people who search my utilities  in Google, and "This site may harm your computer" message was displayed in the search result.  The automatic systems of Google falsely detected that I have multiple malwares on my Web site, and blocked the access to my Web site  from Google search results in order to protect the users from malwares that  didn't  really exist...
All files that Google detected as malwares were simply my password recovery tools, and Google detected them as malware simply because many Antivirus programs target them.

The command-line options of my password recovery tools are the major feature that allows hackers and Trojans to use these tools for bad purposes, because it's possible to export the passwords into a file and then optionally send them to a remote location (using another software) without displaying any user interface. Removing the command-line options from these tools will cause the Antivirus companies to see them as a lower security risk than before, and hopefully some of them will remove them from their virus detection database.  If a few Antivirus companies will remove the detection of my password-recovery tools from their system, the total number of VirusTotal detection will be lower,  and the chance of getting into troubles as described above will be lower too.

I know that some of you,  who are using the command-line options of my password-recovery tools for legal purposes, will be disappointed from this change, but in our ridiculous world where combination of Antivirus companies, VirusTotal service and Google may lead to blocking many users from accessing my Web site or from downloading software provided in it, I don't have other choice.

I'm still looking for a way to provide command-line version of these tools for users who need this feature for legal purposes, but it must be done in a separated Web site ,so NirSoft web site won't be affected from them.

Amazing difference between Antivirus false alerts on 32-bit and 64-bit builds of exactly the same tool

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

A few years ago, I wrote a Blog post about false positive problems that I have in many of my tools, and I received many responses from users and developers that experience the same problem.
Today the false positive issues still exist, but it seems that people are more aware to the false positive problems, because I get less complaints about virus alerts in my software than what I have gotten in the past.

Some of my tools have 2 different builds - one for using on 32-bit systems and one for using on 64-bit systems.
WirelessKeyView is one of these tools that is available in 2 builds - 32-bit and 64-bit. Both 32-bit and 64-bit builds of WirelessKeyView are compiled with exactly the same code and the same compiler options, and naturally they also do exactly the same actions. The only reason for creating the 64-bit build is because WirelessKeyView injects code into a system process in order to get the wireless keys, and 32-bit process cannot execute code on 64-bit process.

When sending the latest 32-bit version of WirelessKeyView to VirusTotal Web site, it shows false positive alerts from 16 different Antivirus programs:

VirusTotal WirelessKeyView 32-bit

VirusTotal WirelessKeyView 32-bit

Many people think that VirusTotal Web site can be used to find out whether a software is good or bad. Google probably thinks that too, because just recently they purchased this VirusTotal Web site. But the above sample proves that it's not correct. WirelessKeyView is a completely legitimate software to get the wireless keys stored on your own system and to move your wireless keys from one compueter to another. As opposed to many other "Freeware" distributers, my software doesn't send any personal information, doesn't install any unwanted toolbar/spyware/malware, and doesn't make any change in the Registry, so there is no any good reason to warn and scare the user who downloads my software.

If the 32-bit version of WirelessKeyView triggers 16 Virus alerts, you may expect that the 64-bit of WirelessKeyView , which is compiled from exactly the same code will also trigger exactly the same 16 Virus alerts.
So here's the surprise... The number of Virus alerts of WirelessKeyView 64-bit is zero !! Yes, there  is no even a single Virus alert !

VirusTotal WirelessKeyView 64-bit

VirusTotal WirelessKeyView 64-bit

So what is the explanation for the difference between the alerts of 32-bit and 64-bit  versions ?
Well... This question should be sent to the Antivirus companies... But I have a theory:
Looking in the downloads statistics from the last month (September 2012), the 32-bit version of WirelessKeyView (wirelesskeyview.zip) has been downloaded 313,458 times,
while the 64-bit version (wirelesskeyview-x64.zip) has been downloaded only 50,799 times.
So maybe the 32-bit version of WirelessKeyView get false alerts simply because it's much more popular than the 64-bit version ?

When a download is more popular, there is an higher chance the somebody will use for bad purpose and the Antivirus company will get a report about that, for example: A person allows his good friend to access his computer, but his friend uses it to run WitelessKeyView 32-bit and get access to some wireless networks that it shouldn't have access to. When this person discovers that his wireless keys have been stolen by his "friend", he send a complaint to the Antivirus company with a sample of WitelessKeyView. In the next day, the people of the Antivirus company decide to set an alert for WitelessKeyView in order to prevent future wireless key stealing.  But now many people who want to download WirelessKeyView 32-bit for good purpose, like recovering their own wireless key or moving it to another computer, get a warning from their Antivirus software or from VirusTotal Web site, without understanding the reason of getting this alert.
On the other hand... if somebody tries to use WitelessKeyView 64-bit for bad purpose, the Antivirus won't show any alert, simply because the 64-bit version is less popular and nobody complained that it has been used to steal wireless keys.

Just a guess...

Recently I purchased a digital signature and both 32-bit and 64-bit builds of WirelessKeyView are signed with it. Some people told me that signing the .exe files will decrease the false positive alerts. So is it really help ?   Maybe a little. I checked an older version of WirelessKeyView (32-bit), and VirusTotal shows 23 alerts:
https://www.virustotal.com/file/bb9bb534858fb79cb58b4a5411edd59c1b8b3390eb11635294f606f9950c595c/analysis/1349885723/

So 16 alerts is a little better than 23 alerts, but it's still too much.

Finally, here's 2 small articles related to false positive issues posted on other Web sites:

False Positives by some random antivirus vendor

The Funny World of Virus Scanners

MessenPass with alerts in only 2 Antivirus programs out of 41 – is it possible ?

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

As I already reported in the past, MessenPass, my password recovery tool for Messenger applications, is falsely detect as Virus/Trojan/Malware by many Antivirus programs.

Currently, according to this virustotal report, 18 out of 41 Antivirus programs shows a virus alert for MessenPass utility.

So I decided to make a nice test. I took the same code of MessenPass, and recompiled it with different compiler optimization options.
I also left it without UPX compression that I usually do with all my utilities.
I posted the new build of MessenPass for testing in VirusTotal Web site, and here's the amazing result:

Only 2 out of 41 Antivirus programs trigger a virus alert for the new build of MessenPass.
Just to be clear - It's still the same version of MessenPass (v1.26) like the original MessenPass with the 18 Antivirus alerts.
I simply compiled the same code of MessenPass with different compiler options.
avoiding from UPX compression also helped a little, because after compressing the same file with UPX, I got 5 virus alerts.

Currently, this build of MessenPass is only posted in this blog, while the I left the original build in the MessenPass Web page.
It's interesting to see whether the Antivirus companies read or scan my blog.
If they do, the number of virus alerts in this MessenPass build will increase very soon...

MessenPass false positives increased to 17

Monday, July 20th, 2009

As I predicted in my previous post about MessenPass false positives , the number of false positives alerts in the new version of MessenPass increased to 17, according to VirusTotal report.

The new false alerts are:

a-squared - Trojan.Generic!IK
AntiVir - SPR/PSW.Messen.DC
Antiy-AVL - PSWTool/Win32.Messen.gen
Comodo - UnclassifiedMalware
Fortinet - HackerTool/Messen
McAfee-GW-Edition - Riskware.PSW.Messen.DC
ViRobot - Not_a_virus:PSWTool.Messen.64512.B

Only 10 false positives in the new MessenPass release, for now.

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

A few days ago, I released a new version of MessenPass. According to VirusTotal Web site, so far there are only 10 Antivirus programs that detect a threat or infection inside mspass.zip:

If you wonder what is the reason that I say the word 'Only', that's because the previous of MessenPass (v1.24) has false alerts in 25 Antivirus programs:

The reason of the False Positive decrease is probably because most Antivirus programs don't find the bytes sequence that they used to detect the previous version of MessenPass.
Unfortunately, in the next days/weeks, these Antivirus companies will probably add the new MessenPass into their database, and the number of false alerts will increase back to around 25.
In the next few days, I'll watch closely the changes in MessenPass false positives, and I'll post an update when the number of false alerts significantly increase.

Troubles caused by false positives of McAfee

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the troubles I have from all these false virus alerts generated by Antivirus programs.
So here's 2 more examples of serious troubles that McAfee false positives caused to other companies:

  1. McAfee false-positive glitch fells PCs worldwide When AV attacks:
    In this event, that occurred only 10 days ago, McAfee Antivirus "attacked" some system files that were falsely detected as Trojan, and caused
    these computers to crash with blue screen of death.

  2. Companies Struggle To Reverse McAfee's False Positives On Yahoo Search:
    Around a year ago, Yahoo started a partnership with McAfee's SiteAdvisor, causing some Web sites to be displayed with false red alerts on Yahoo search results.

...And finally, just a good word for McAfee SiteAdvisor: Although they have some false alerts problems like mentioned in the second article, at least they also show a good willingness to fix these kind of problems. 3 years ago, their SiteAdvisor was displayed a red alert on my Web site, but after I added my remark as the author of NirSoft, they checked my Web site and decided to turn it from red to green.
As opposed to SiteAdvisor, the Antivirus of McAfee is a troublemaker like all the others, and continue to detect my utilities as "potentially unwanted program" or "Generic PUP".

Antivirus companies cause a big headache to small developers.

Sunday, May 17th, 2009

Antivirus is essential tool that most people need to protect their Windows operating system from Viruses, Trojans, and other bad stuff.

Unfortunately, most Antivirus companies goes too far with their Virus/Trojan protection, and in many times they classify completely legit software as Virus/Trojan infection.
One good example for that is my own password recovery tools: Most people need these tools to recover their own lost password. These password tools, like many other utilities out there, can also be used by hackers for bad purposes.
The attitude of many Antivirus companies is very tough in this subject -
If it's a tool that can be used by bad guys, it's classified as Trojan or Virus, even when most users need it and use it for good purposes. Antivirus companies don't care that they block their own customers that want to recover their own passwords, and they don't care that they may cause their customer to think that I'm a Virus distributer.
I must say that some Antivirus companies are a little more gentle, and classify these tools as "Security Threat" or "Riskware" which is much better than classifying them as Virus or Trojan, but they still prevent the user from running them - by deleting them or by putting them in quarantine.
Also, many users don't know what is difference between Virus and Riskware, and when they get these "Riskware" alerts, they still think that my tools are infected with a Virus named "Riskware".

My password-recovery utilities are not the only victims of the "over protection" made by Antivirus software. Some other tools, like ProduKey, RegScanner, WebVideoCap, NirCmd, and others that don't recover any password, are still constantly targeted by Antivirus companies, without any known reason.

Other developers also have "False Positive" problems

Other small developers also constantly experience false alerts made by Antivirus software, here some examples:

What about large companies like Microsoft ?

Large companies usually don't have any false positives problems, and even if there is a single case of false alert, the antivirus company will probably fix it very soon. After all, antivirus companies know that Large companies have good lawyers and if they won't fix the problem, they may find themselves in a large lawsuit for libel.
One good example is SysInternals. In the past, their psexec.exe tool that can be used to execute code on remote machine, was detected as Virus by some Antivirus programs, but today, when SysInternals is a part of Microsoft, All Antiviruses show it's clean, as
you can see from this VirusTotal report.

Examples for emails I receive on daily basis

Here's some examples of messages regarding the virus alerts, that I get to my inbox on daily basis:

  • "Your mspass.exe is infected with Virus"
    "You have Trojan horse in your Mail PassView utility"
    "your ProduKey is a Trojan, be ashamed !"

    These messages are sent by users that really think that my tools are infected. I cannot blame them for thinking that, because the Antivirus really tell them that there is an infection.
    Most Antivirus programs don't explain the user that the alert is displayed only because it's a legitimated tool that might be used by hackers.
    They simply tells the user that the tool is infected with Virus or trojan, even it's not really the truth.

  • "I try to run your program and it says that I don't have permission"
    "I try to run your program, and I get the following message: 'Windows cannot access the specified device, path, or file. You may not have the appropriate permission to access the item'"
    "I try to run your program, and nothing happen"
    "Each time that I download your program and extract the files, the .exe file disappears"

    These messages are sent by users who think that there is a bug or problem with my utility, without knowing that this problem is actually caused by their Antivirus.
    In some circumstances, the Antivirus software runs in the background, and when it detect a threat, it simply block the .exe file, put the file in quarantine, or simply delete it, without telling the user anything.
    The frustrated user think that there is a problem in the software he tries to run, without knowing that the Antivirus software, that should protect his computer, is actually the troublemaker that causes this problem.

  • "When I try to get into utilities section of your site, I get 'the page cannot be displayed' error"
    "You have a broken link in your site - When I try to download your ProduKey tool, I get 'the page cannot be displayed' error"

    These messages are sent by users who think that there is a problem in my Web site, because they cannot browse into a Web page in my site or download a utility from my site. But once again, this problem is caused by Antivirus or Firewall that decided to block my Web site without explaining the user about the site blocking.

    Zonealarm products, as opposed to others, redirects the user into a Web page which says that "nirsoft.net has been known to distribute spyware", which is completely untrue.

    This web page also offers to report about false detection to False_Positive@checkpoint.com. I really tried to do so, but I received the following error message from their email server:
    ----- The following addresses had permanent fatal errors -----

    (reason: 550 5.1.1 ... User unknown)

    As you can see, Zonealarm provides an email to report about false positives, but it's a fake email address that nobody really reads.

Needless to say - all these virus-related email messages that I receive every day are a big headache and require me to waste my time on answering/handling them,
instead of adding new features to my utilities and updating my site.

Why don't you contact the Antivirus companies ?

Some people ask me, "Why don't you simply contact the Antivirus companies to resolve the false alerts issues ?"
So here's some important points:

  1. There are dozens of Antivirus companies out there, and with combination of more than 100 utilities in my site, false alerts appears and disappears all the time. Handling all these false alerts may require an employee with full-time job, even more than that.

  2. If you look into the Web sites of some Antivirus companies, you'll easily find a large "Buy Now" button, but you probably won't find any "Report About False Positive" link. Antivirus companies always want to make more sells, but they don't really care about false positives in their products. They usually hide the option to report about false alert very deep in their Web site, and some of them gives "False Positive" support only for users that purchased their product.

  3. Even when I find the method to report about a false alert, deeply in their Web site, most of the companies don't answer the requests at all or simply send an automatic message, saying that the sample that I sent is infected. In some cases, The Antivirus company fix the false alert problem in their next update, but without admitting that they had a false positive, and without sending any apology to me, as a developer.
  4. False Positives usually come back: Even when Antivirus company finally fix a false positive, it's just a matter of time, until the false positive returns again, with a new Virus/Trojan name.


Help me and other developers !

If you feel frustrated, like me, about all these false alerts, you can help me and other small developers to stop Antivirus programs from detecting innocent tools as Viruses/Trojans.

What can you do ?
Here's some examples:

  1. Add your comments to this article about False Positives problems you experience (As user or as software developer)

  2. Send this post to your friends, so they'll know more about false positive problems.
  3. If you constantly pay for licenses and updates for your Antivirus software,
    don't hesitate to call your Antivirus company and require them to stop the false alerts.
    You pay for your Antivirus product, and you deserved to get a reliable product that detect only real viruses.
  4. If you have any contact with large magazine writer/journalist, you may try to offer him to make a research and/or write an article about all false alerts problems made by Antivirus.
    Unfortunately, some magazines will never write an article against the Antivirus companies, because these companies also pay for advertising in these magazines.

In the bottom line, if the false positives problem will make too much noise in the media, the Antivirus companies will understand that false positives may also hurt their reputation and decrease their product sells, and eventually they will give more priority to fix the false alerts in their products.

Current AVG False Positives

Saturday, October 4th, 2008

Messages like "You have a Virus in your software" are received into my Inbox on daily basis, and a lots of them comes from AVG Antivirus. So I decided to check the current status of AVG false positives, by scanning the utilities folder of my site.
First, I copied the utils folder of my site into a new place (I don't really want that AVG will touch my original site folder...), and then I allowed AVG Antivirus to scan the folder.
After AVG finished the scan, it splited the scan result into 2 categories: Infections and Spyware.
Most of the alerts on my utilities folder appeared under the 'Spyware' section.
I really would want to understand what is going in the minds of AVG guys when they decided to detect my software as Spyware.

Anyway, I used my own SysExporter utility to grab the scan result from AVG and display it as HTML. Luckily, SysExporter is not detected as infection by AVG, otherwise, it wouldn't allow me to run and use it.
So here's the AVG "False Positive" list, the Spyware section:

C:\Utils\asterie.zip Potentially harmful program HackTool.DOI
C:\Utils\asterie.zip:\asterie.exe Potentially harmful program HackTool.DOI
C:\Utils\netpass.zip Potentially harmful program HackTool.FAJ
C:\Utils\netpass.zip:\netpass.exe Potentially harmful program HackTool.FAJ
C:\Utils\netpass_setup.exe Potentially harmful program HackTool.FAJ
C:\Utils\netpass_setup.exe:\netpass.exe Potentially harmful program HackTool.FAJ
C:\Utils\netpass_setup.exe:\ziz1384.tmp:\netpass.exe Potentially harmful program HackTool.FAJ
C:\Utils\pspv.zip Potentially harmful program HackTool.CBX
C:\Utils\pspv.zip:\pspv.exe Potentially harmful program HackTool.CBX
C:\Utils\sniffpass.zip Potentially harmful program HackTool.FMT
C:\Utils\sniffpass.zip:\SniffPass.exe Potentially harmful program HackTool.FMT
C:\Utils\sniffpass_setup.exe Potentially harmful program HackTool.FMT
C:\Utils\sniffpass_setup.exe:\SniffPass.exe Potentially harmful program HackTool.FMT
C:\Utils\sniffpass_setup.exe:\ziz1384.tmp:\SniffPass.exe Potentially harmful program HackTool.FMT
C:\Utils\vncpassview.zip Potentially harmful program HackTool.EEI
C:\Utils\vncpassview.zip:\VNCPassView.exe Potentially harmful program HackTool.EEI

And this one is the Infections section:

C:\Utils\lsasecretsdump.zip Trojan horse Generic10.SZR
C:\Utils\lsasecretsdump.zip:\LSASecretsDump.exe Trojan horse Generic10.SZR

And finally, here's another issue with AVG and other Antivirus software:
When you exit from the Antivirus software, it won't display any Virus/Trojan/Spyware warning, but the service of the Antivirus is still running in the background, and prohibits you from running any file that is detected as infected.
This mean that if you try to run one of my tools that are detected as Spyware/Virus while AVG application is not running, you'll get the following error message:
"Windows cannot access the specified device, path, or file. You may not have the appropriate permission to access the item".

Most people that get this kind of error, think that there is a bug in my software, and don't know that the Antivirus is the one that cause the problem.