Holdem Manager Foiled by Anti-Virus Programs

Date: 2009-10-16
Author: Sean Gibson

Holdem Manager is a member of the Recommended Software program here at PokerSoftware.com and is one of the most widely used third-party programs in the industry.  On October 11th, it came to a halt when major anti-virus programs deemed "hmhud.exe" a malicious "backdoor trojan" infection.  The issue caused programs such as Norton Anti-Virus, AVG, F-Secure, and Avast to quarantine the program.  Once quarantined, Holdem Manager would not be able to import hand histories or show its Heads-Up Display (HUD).  The result was that everyone who used Holdem Manager and had an anti-virus program would not be able to import hand histories or have the HUD work.

The first reports came in on the 11th, but most of the complaints surfaced on the 14th and 15th as new definitions were released for major anti-virus programs.  This led to near panic in the streets for Holdem Manager’s faithful.  For programs such as AVG and Avast, users could go inside the configuration and enter in a special "exclude" to fix the issue.  This would tell the anti-virus program to not scan the specific file it deemed malicious, and, if executed properly, would fix the issue.  For many computer neophytes, this process was too difficult to overcome and left them in waiting while Holdem Manager developers scrambled for a fix.

For the most popular paid anti-virus program, Norton, there simply was no fix available until Holdem Manager released an update.  The exclusion feature inside of Norton Anti-Virus does not allow manual entries and only gives permission to Norton pre-approved exclusions.  For those who tried disabling the auto-protect feature, backdoor safety measures by Norton continued to prevent Holdem Manager from functioning properly.

The main issue revolves around Holdem Manager's use of something called "xenocode," which is a virtual application studio for managers and developers.  Unfortunately, many have used xenocode to create malicious software in attempts to cause harm to unsuspecting users.

Yesterday on the Holdem Manager forums, developer Roy Goncalves posted that xenocode will be removed altogether.  In its place, developers were purchasing a top-end product and didn't believe that it would cause any issues similar to what xenocode was causing with false positives for virus alerts.  Later the same day, Goncalves went on to say that xenocode needed to be replaced anyway because of a migration to .net version 3.5, which it would not support.  As far as developers for Holdem Manager knew, any program in the xenocode folder could show a virus.

Holdem Manager’s development team released a fix on October 15th that is available for free.  As posted, Version 1.09 Beta 40 switches the compilation methods to avoid issues some people were having with anti-virus programs in addition to clearing up permission-related issues.  Also packaged with this update is a fix for numerous changes PartyPoker made to e-mail hand histories.

Given the quick turnaround of the development team, users were extremely understanding.  Holdem Manager has a history of releasing quick updates in order to meet the demands of its customer base.  Many were impressed with the turnaround time given that the team had to change one of the core elements of the program in order to find a solution.

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