The Love Bug Virus

Love Bug VirusSounding like a potentially wonderful thing, the “Love Bug” was a very destructive virus. Sometimes call the “ILove You” or “LoveLetter” virus, it was created by a young man in Manila and, in May 2000, shut down millions of computers in the United States, most of Europe and other parts of the world.

This type of virus, revolutionary at the time, comes to the user in the form of an e-mail with the subject “I Love You”. It was actually a macro the runs in Microsoft Outlook. These are technically called worms because along with infecting the host computer, they replicate themselves and continue to other systems.

If the user simply deletes the e-mail containing viruses like the Love Bug, no harm is usually done. It is safe in the Recycle Bin. But if the attachment is opened (even with the Preview Pane), chaos ensues. The most sophisticated virus of its time, the Love Bug would also forward itself to other e-mail addresses it found on the newly infected computer. This virus is considered to be the “grandfather” of subsequent killer e-mail based viruses, like Sobig, MyDoom and Netsky. Many other viruses also surfaced using the same technique, using tricks to tempt the user to click on a deadly attachment.

Viruses like these are particularly dangerous to child users, who are not as sophisticated as adults and may be tempted by the lucrative email subjects. Sinister worms can sometimes easily trick young people into infecting their home computer or even the computer network at school if the proper firewalls and virus protection software are not installed.

The predecessor to this virus was the equally famous “Melissa”, which appeared in 1999. The Love Bug was a new and improved version of a worm, which was then a newer form of infection. With primary sinister features such as using e-mail to transport the virus and it’s ability to spread automatically from one computer to another, it’s task was greatly simplified and aided by the efficiency of the Internet and the features in Outlook e-mail software.

Fortunately, newer anti-virus software has become very good at recognizing and blocking or destroying most new viruses, based on this sort of behaviour. Since the year 2000, when the Love Bug effectively shut down computers and networks throughout the United States and most of the European continent, anti-viral software has become a staple for most business and home computers. Luckily, it works, and so far, the next generation of viruses has yet to crack most of these defences.

Before the Love Bug, there were no laws against spreading dangerous viruses other than generic “Computer Misuse” statutes. The first ‘viral laws’ were introduced in June 2000, right after and as a result of the damage done by the Love Bug. Unfortunately, the new laws could not be backdated, so no one has ever been or will be prosecuted for this virus, even though the authorities know who the creator was. However now it is highly likely that anyone writing a similar virus will be subjected to international criminal prosecution.

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