The antivirus opportunity is now

The antivirus opportunity is now

She may be an under-achieving yet well-endorsed tennis player, but Anna Kournikova's profile is such that she has managed to represent a great opportunity for the channel to make money.

A new worm virus has emerged this week which uses the promise of an attached image of the famed Russian tennis player as bait to execute a piece of Visual Basic Script. As did previous worms, the Anna Kournikova virus then replicates itself by e-mailing every entry in Microsoft Outlook's e-mail application address book.

Naturally, antivirus software vendors go into a spin over incidents such as this latest worm virus release, and their retail partners get in on the party through the subsequent sales spike that occurs.

While this virus is far less destructive than earlier worms such as the "I LOVE YOU" variant, mainstream media still lapped up the story because it was so prevalent and bore the name Anna Kournikova.

However, it is not just retail channel partners who should be jumping on the bandwagon, according to leading vendors. They claim the fresh media focus will ensure virus protection and Internet security in general is once again on the minds of customers. This means that resellers in corporate markets should also be firing up.

"At the moment, customers are in a receptive mood to the [antivirus and Internet security] message," Allan Bell, senior marketing manager for Network Associate's McAfee business unit said.

"Some customers will only worry for a day but others will recognise it could have been a lot worse. What resellers can do is help develop a policy that deals with these situations.

"A reseller can either just sell them a quick-fix solution and send them on their way or they can revisit the whole security solution. Bell was quick to remind the channel that the whole security sector of the market is a route to new higher-margin services-based revenues.

"[Resellers] are in a great position to take over as outsourcers of antivirus solutions," he said. "They can leverage their expertise and technical knowledge to really build quality solutions."

Ben Guthrie, regional Norton Antivirus product manager for Symantec, agreed incidents such as this latest worm were an opportunity as well as a sales spike.

"Intense media interest means everyone is thinking about virus protection," Guthrie said. "We see a direct correlation between mainstream media coverage and a spike in sales."

According to Guthrie, there is a window of opportunity that is currently wide open. He said the window stayed open for about "six to eight weeks" after the Love Bug outbreak, and suspects this one will be even shorter as the worm was more of a denial of service menace and "did not carry a malicious payload".

He also urged it should not just be retailers who jump through the open window.

"Corporations have woken up to the essential nature of including an antivirus component in their security solutions," Guthrie said. "Internet security is an all-encompassing solution and any type of solution is good for margin."

Now is a good time to be proactive and to revisit the issue with customers, he said.

Users who were fully up to date in their antivirus protection would not have been adversely affected by the latest outbreak. McAfee's Bell said its updates have been covering this particular variant since August 2000, but not nearly enough people were protected.

"Most of our resellers will be run off their feet this week dealing with enquiries," he said. "This is a reminder to them that they should be proactive in their sales and servicing. Don't leave it until there is a virus outbreak to talk to customers about solutions," he said.

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