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"McAfee" iPhone antivirus app is from McAfee but not meant for public

Update 9:45 ET: Kudos to McAfee's media relations team, burning the late-Friday oil to help us make some sense of this story. Here's the official comment from Joris Evers, director of worldwide PR for the antivirus vendor:

The application you blogged about is indeed a genuine McAfee project. We are always working on new platforms including the popular ones. In this particular case we were running a test to validate some recently developed technology. We happen to be first to test AV technology for iPhone. We're happy that iPhone users are already getting excited about it, as evidenced by your blog and the thousands of people who are trying out the application. Still, we are not ready to announce a new product, our development work is in the early stages.

Update 8:45 ET
: In a "curiouser and curiouser" twist, we have some new info from McAfee on the iPhone AV application... which was indeed developed at McAfee, contrary to our earlier reports from their press representative. Here's what else has been confirmed:
  • The 'Stinger' mobile AV tool for iPhone is an internal project that somehow "got into the wild." It was not intended for release (indeed, since it was developed with the community toolchain, it would have to be rebuilt for the SDK).
  • They are happy with the positive feedback they're getting from users.
  • It was a proof of concept. They have no idea if they'll follow through with an actual product.
  • Corporate and consumer offices are in adjacent cities, which explains the domain registration issue.
As we get additional details and some hands-on time with the tool we will update further.
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Talk about things that make you go "huh." TUAW reader "Ghost" sent in a tip pointing us to this WinAndMac post about new native iPhone antivirus software from McAfee. Antivirus software? For the iPhone? Something didn't smell right so I put in a call to Francie Coulter, VP of McAfee's Consumer Public Relations.

Francie told me that to the best of her knowledge, this iPhone AV tool was not a genuine McAfee project. She is checking around to be sure and promises to get back in touch. Unfortunately, as far as TUAW can tell, this is not legitimate. The 'mcafeemobile.com' domain WHOIS points to a Sunnyvale, CA address but the company's offices are actually in Santa Clara; it's possible that the mobile R&D group is located in a different place, and the phone number matches up, but that's thin evidence either way. The iPhone app might be an innocent demo, or it may contain malware. There's a hackintosh thread up now, and several folks are discussing the relative likelihood of the tool being either legit or malicious. We suggest you use caution and avoid downloading the app, pending a definitive story from McAfee one way or the other.

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