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04 May 2004

The fourth anniversary of the Love Bug virus. Sophos comments

Onel de Guzman is suspected of being the author of the Love Bug worm
Onel de Guzman is suspected of being the author of the Love Bug worm

"May the fourth be with you.."

Four years ago today, on 4 May 2000, the VBS/Lovelet-A virus (also known as the Love Bug or ILOVEYOU worm) caused considerable damage as it infected computers worldwide.

The virus, believed to have been written by Filipino student Onel de Guzman, fooled computer users into believing they were receiving a love letter in their email. However, if the attached file was opened the virus would forward itself to other email addresses found on the infected computer.

"In many ways the Love Bug was the grandfather of modern email-aware viruses like Sobig, MyDoom and Netsky," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "It heralded a new era of email-aware worms which have clogged up computer users' email systems ever since."

Since the appearance of the Love Bug many other viruses have emerged which used similar tricks to tempt users into double-clicking on a malicious attachment. Memorably in 2001 a worm which pretended to be pictures of the Russian tennis pin-up Anna Kournikova successfully spread around the globe. Other viruses have posed as files connected with Shakira, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton or Jennifer Lopez.

"The sad fact is that four years on users are probably just as likely to fall for a virus with a psychological trick up its sleeve as they were before. Put simply - there are plenty of people who will launch the virus even if they have been hit many times before. Technology may have improved in the last four years, but people's gullibility remains the same," continued Cluley.

Since the Love Bug viruses have become more sophisticated, with some viruses such as Blaster and Sasser travelling across the internet without using email. However, anti-virus technology has also become more powerful with the ability to block dangerous file types which may contain new, unknown viruses at the email gateway and seamless tools for automatic updating of an entire company's computers.

Laws designed to combat computer misuse were only introduced in June 2000 by the authorities in the Philippines as a result of the Love Bug incident. These laws could not be backdated, and suspect Onel de Guzman walked free.

"No-one has ever been brought to court for spreading the Love Bug virus, and it seems they probably never will," continued Cluley.

About Sophos

More than 100 million users in 150 countries rely on Sophos as the best protection against complex threats and data loss. Sophos is committed to providing complete security solutions that are simple to deploy, manage, and use and that deliver the industry's lowest total cost of ownership. Sophos offers award-winning encryption, endpoint security, web, email, mobile and network security solutions backed by SophosLabs - a global network of threat intelligence centers.

Sophos is headquartered in Boston, US and Oxford, UK. More information is available at www.sophos.com.