‘Love bug’ lessons

Originating in the Philippines, the malicious ILOVEYOU computer virus swept around the

world in early May, infecting and shutting down hundreds of thousands of electronic-mail and

computer systems. Opening an attachment named LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU.TXT.VBS activated the

virus program, which would then attempt to send copies of itself via Microsoft Outlook E-mail

software to every entry in the recipient’s address books. The virus caused damage by also searching

for certain types of computer and network files and replacing them with copies of itself.

Though similar in some ways to last year’s Melissa virus, the love bug moved faster, spread farther,

and had a much more devastating effect on computer systems (SN: 5/8/99, p. 303).

“The underlying technology is riddled with security vulnerabilities and not enough effort

has been devoted to improving the technology,” computer scientist Peter G. Neumann of SRI

International in Menlo Park, Calif., warned in written testimony presented at a recent congressional

hearing. “It is important to realize that the damage could easily have been much

greater,” he argued. Destructive variants of the ILOVEYOU virus continue to circulate, and security

experts have identified new vulnerabilities in portable devices, such as cell phones, that

connect to the Internet.

More Stories from Science News on Computing