This is the story of a computer virus that caused over 8 billion dollars in damages, infected over 50 million computers worldwide, and even caused the CIA to shut down its email services.
Join me as we investigate the ILOVEYOU virus.
What was the ILOVEYOU virus?
The ILOVEYOU virus, also known as the Love Bug or LoveLetter, was a computer worm that spread rapidly through email attachments on May 4th, 2000.
Starting in the Pandacan neighborhood in Manila, Philipines. The creator later removed the geo lock which allowed it to quickly spread to other countries starting with corporate networks in Hong Kong.
Destroying its communication networks and corrupting files of investment banks, from there it spread westwards to developing countries as employees started their workdays.
The virus was a simple yet effective piece of malware that exploited a vulnerability in Microsoft Outlook. Simply put, it was a spam email with the subject line ILOVEYOU appearing to be a harmless email from a loved one.
However, when this email was opened, the virus would automatically download and execute a script that sent a copy of the email to all of the contacts in the user’s address book.
This allowed it to spread rapidly and within just 5 days of its release, it spread to over 2.5 million computers. Not to mention, it was shockingly deceiving.
Thanks to a flaw in the Windows 95 email system, the script file extension .vbs was hidden and replaced with a fake .txt file extension which mislead people into thinking they were opening a harmless text file.
Once the malware was activated it would then proceed to overwrite and delete important files on the infected computer. Anything from photographs to audio files was affected.
The creator of the virus
So you are probably wondering who exactly created this virus. Well, this infamous virus was created in the Philippines by a 24-year-old college student named Onel De Guzman.
Strapped for cash, Guzman created it to steal users’ passwords so that he could access the internet without paying, even justifying this malicious practice by saying it is his human right to access the internet.
The ILOVEYOU virus was particularly devastating because of its ability to propagate quickly and effectively. All in all, it is estimated that this virus inflicted over $8 billion in damages worldwide and infected a whopping 10% of internet-connected computers worldwide.
It even led to the CIA, British Parliament, and the Pentagon temporarily shutting down their email services over security concerns. Unsurprisingly, this virus was later traced back to Guzman and he was targeted by the Philippines Bureau of Investigation on May 5, 2000.
Over the coming months’ evidence mounted against him as he left disks in his apartment that contained the virus. However, he was never actually charged as there were no laws against creating malware in the Philippines at the time.
As a result, this led to the Philippines passing the Republic Act No. 8792 to combat malware.
Guzman would remain quiet for the two decades following the outbreak until 2020 when he would be tracked down to a mobile phone repair shop in Manila by journalist Geoff White where he would confess to his actions.
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I hope you found this article useful and thanks for reading it. Want to learn about the history of Anonymous? Click here to read my previous article.