McAfee: Partners Were Crucial In AV Glitch Cleanup

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In April, when a faulty antivirus signature update took down thousands of McAfee customers' PCs, the company saw an opportunity to make lemonade from lemons -- with the help of its channel partners.

By enlisting channel partners to help clean up the mess, McAfee took a unique approach to a common problem, one that nearly every security vendor has faced at one point or another.

How'd that work out? McAfee says partners were instrumental in speeding response times and mitigating the impact of an issue that affected approximately 1,600 enterprise customers and 11,000 consumer customers. As a result, McAfee was able to resolve the situation without losing any customers, a scenario that seemed inevitable when the glitch first reared its head.

"We had people out at customer sites almost immediately, and we did not lose a single renewal in Q2 from customers that were affected by the issue," Alex Thurber, senior vice president of worldwide channel operations at McAfee, told CRN this week. "We had a number of customers impacted in a major way, but every one of them renewed."

Thurber says McAfee has figured out exactly what went wrong with the botched antivirus update and has policies and procedures in place to ensure it doesn't happen again. But if it does, McAfee wouldn't hesitate to recruit partners to help, he added.

"If there is such a problem in the future, we will absolutely engage partners from the beginning," said Thurber. "We do think this could come to be seen as a best practice for the industry."

The faulty antivirus signature, which McAfee issued April 21, erroneously flagged Windows XP Service Pack 3 as malware and caused PCs to display the dreaded "Blue Screen Of Death" and then enter an endless reboot cycle.

McAfee partners learned of the problem after a deluge of calls from panicked customers. "Everybody that got that thought they had a virus. It brought a lot of our customers to their knees," said one solution provider, who asked not to be named.

Although McAfee initially downplayed the impact, furious customer feedback caused it to quickly change its tune. McAfee devised a plan to send partners out to affected customers' sites to provide remediation services. Partners would also provide up-front health-check and consulting services, with McAfee reimbursing them for their travel expenses and time.

"We refused to come back with the excuse that these things happen, and we made the overall experience a positive one," Thurber said.


Next: How Many Partners Actually Helped Out?

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