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Melissa pays off for antivirus firms

Virus detection software sales jump 67 percent in the week after the virus hit email systems, according to a report.

The Melissa virus panic paid off for antivirus software companies.

Virus detection software retail sales jumped 67 percent overall in the week after the Melissa virus spread by email from computer to computer starting March 26, according to figures released today by PC Data.

Antivirus software makers such as Symantec, Network Associates, and TrendMicro updated software the day the virus was released and discovered, then went into public-relations overdrive to get word of the new products out.

The blitz apparently paid off. During the week after the virus was launched, Symantec's Norton Antivirus sales increased 78 percent, PC Data said. Sales of Network Associates' VirusScan and Dr. Solomon's AntiVirus both increased by 51 percent.

"The increased use of virus detection products is one of few positive impacts of the Melissa virus," said PC Data President Ann Stephens in a statement.

The antivirus companies' desktop products initially were unable to detect or fix the original Melissa virus, which uses a combination of Microsoft Word and Outlook software to spread itself to people on a computer's email address list.

A New Jersey man, David L. Smith, was arrested last week and charged with disseminating the virus.