Retailer shouts "ILOVEYOU"

At least one Australian retailer looks set to reap short-term sales rewards as the "Love Letter" epidemic continues to capture the world's attention.

John Slack-Smith, Harvey Norman's general manager of computers and communications, said the company is witnessing a ten-fold increase in sales of antivirus software in some stores.

"There is no other word to describe it than excellent," he said. As an example, HN's Auburn store sold over 200 copies of antivirus software last weekend as the mainstream media kept the virus outbreak at the top of the news agenda. Slack-Smith said the Auburn store typically sells around 20 copies over a weekend.

The virus has seen many SME customers and home consumers seek advice from the retailer's in-store salespeople, with recommendations usually focussed on one of the software products or virus definition updates downloadable from the Internet.

"We are fielding an enormous number of phone calls," he said. Meanwhile, the news on the reseller and integrator side of the fence is less exciting. In general, resellers in the corporate, government or finance sectors report very little problems from customers or clients.

Hugh Bickerstaff, Volante's Sydney-based general manager, described it as a "non-event".

Darren Walton, technical services manager at Centari, commented a number of customers had experienced some problems, but said there were horror stories to report aside from a couple of "burnt PCs".

"We didn't get done at all, not one bit," Walton said of Centari's own systems, stating the virus was stopped at the point of entry to the organisation.

According to Avnet Integrand's managing director, Colin McKenna, he too has heard of few customer problems but warned the virus should be seen as a wake-up call.

"Avnet in the US was impacted and had to shut down the mail server. The mail was offline for four or five hours.

"It emphasises how companies need to be more disciplined in terms of the way they manage their mail. They should scan all attachments coming into the server. At Avnet we adopt a very rigid approach and always maintain up-to-date scanners. And when in doubt don't open files."

Steve Dixon, managing director of network management specialist Full Spectrum, commented that viruses are steadily getting worse. "It's going to get really ugly," he said of future outbreaks.

Meanwhile, Avnet's McKenna dismissed suggestions the outbreak would result is massive repair bills. "I can't see any major costs associated with the virus, not lasting costs anyway. There were inconvenience costs with the mail servers being shut down, but that was all."