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Woolworths blocked e-mail during anti-capitalist demos

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High Street retailer Woolworths blocked the receipt of external email yesterday amid fears that it might be targeted by virus writers during Mayday anti-capitalist protests.

A spokesman for Woolworths confirmed that its system admins decided to block external emails on its Exchange server after protestors congregated near its London headquarters. The restriction, which didn't affect internal emails, was put in place only for the duration of the protest and has since been lifted.

"This was a precaution put in place for security purposes because we were concerned about the possibility of viruses being sent to us," he said. "In the event nothing happened but the measures weren't too dramatic and were sensible in the circumstances."

The decision by Woolworths to restrict the use of email during a period of heightened risk isn't unprecedented (though Woolworths' spokesman was reluctant to discuss whether it had used the tactic before).

During the initial spread of the Anna Kournikova virus last February a number of firms turned off their email servers as a precaution against infection.

Bruce Walton, UK managing director of antivirus firm Command, said Woolworths action would make sense if it had reason to believe it might come under attack by "capable" virus authors in order to prevent the spread of anything serious.

"If Woolworths had intelligence that it might be targeted in this way than what it did was sensible, otherwise what it did was making something of a leap," said Walton, who added turning off email servers had ecommerce implications.

Early yesterday morning 600 bicyclists congregated around London's Marylebone station, where Woolworths is based, and Liverpool Street train station. This slow speed cycling ride to protest environmental concerns passed off peacefully but later May Day demonstrations turned violent as 3,000 anti-capitalist protestors faced off against police.

Many shops in London's Oxford Street, the focal point of protests, was closed for the day despite which there was damage to property and around 50 arrests were made. One protestor received serious head injuries.

We quiet understand how Woolworths might have become paranoid in the circumstances.

A black helicopter circled over Vulture Central all day, creating a hell of a din. When protestors led by people wearing boiler suits and gas masks paraded past our offices the more excitable Reg staffers believed we were under siege from militant Intel bunnypersons.

In the circumstances there was only one possible response and we all disappeared down the pub to seek refuge...except the Masons Arms was shut, and the Monk called time at 9pm, because of the demos. ®

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