Symantec drops don't-use advice, gives pcAnywhere all-clear

Offers free upgrades to customers running older editions as one rival swoops in with special pricing

Symantec has retracted its don't-use-pcAnywhere recommendation to owners of the remote access software.

Last week, the company took the highly unusual step of telling pcAnywhere users to disable the program based on a 2006 source code leak and this month's claims by members of Anonymous that they were mining the stolen code for vulnerabilities.

Symantec spokesman Brian Modena declined to declare the now-patched pcAnywhere as safe to use when asked that question multiple times, but hinted that the fixes the company has released were sufficient.

"At this time, Symantec recommends that customers ensure pcAnywhere 12.5 is installed, apply all relevant patches as they are released, and follow general security best practices," Modena said in a pair of emailed responses to questions about the software's safety.

Modena's comment was identical to the phrasing Symantec posted on its website late on Friday.

Symantec wrapped up patching pcAnywhere 12.5 on Jan. 27, then updated versions 12.0 and 12.1 with more fixes yesterday.

Last week, Symantec said it was unable to predict when it would complete its patching of pcAnywhere, citing the unpredictability of its investigation and the creation of the necessary fixes.

The updates can be manually downloaded from Symantec's website , or customers can use pcAnywhere's built-in updating service to retrieve and install the patches.

Modena also confirmed that customers running versions of pcAnywhere prior to version 12.0 will be offered a free upgrade to 12.5.

"If requested, Symantec will honor an update to version 12.5 for customers using previous versions of the product," said Modena today. To ask for a free upgrade, users should send the company an email aimed at the address.

The 2006 source code breach -- which Symantec traced to an attack on its own network -- also revealed the underpinnings of other products, including Norton Antivirus Corporate Edition, Norton Internet Security, Norton Utilities and Norton GoBack, and Symantec AntiVirus 10.2.

Customers running those products, however, are not in any danger, Symantec has said, noting that the leak of Norton Antivirus Corporate Edition amounted to "less than 5%" of the product's source code, and that the code for the other titles was "so old that current out-of-the-box security settings will suffice against any possible threats that might materialize."

Symantec has also said it has not seen any real-world attacks that exploited the exposed vulnerabilities in pcAnywhere.

At least one rival has used Symantec's embarrassment to pitch its own product as a pcAnywhere replacement.

Today, Laplink Software announced it was cutting special deals for pcAnywhere owners willing to switch to its Laplink Gold: The Bellevue, Wash.-based company is selling a single license to its own remote access program for $44.95, half the usual $89.95 price.

Laplink has also slashed prices of its five- and 10-license packs by 50%.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer , on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is .

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