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ILOVEYOU

A screenshot of the ILOVEYOU computer virus

Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

A year after the Melissa virus hit the Internet, a digital menace emerged from the Philippines. Unlike the Melissa virus, this threat came in the form of a worm -- it was a standalone program capable of replicating itself. It bore the name ILOVEYOU.

The ILOVEYOU virus initially traveled the Internet by e-mail, just like the Melissa virus. The subject of the e-mail said that the message was a love letter from a secret admirer. An attachment in the e-mail was what caused all the trouble. The original worm had the file name of LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU.TXT.vbs. The vbs extension pointed to the language the hacker used to create the worm: Visual Basic Scripting [source: McAfee].

According to anti-virus software producer McAfee, the ILOVEYOU virus had a wide range of attacks:

  • It copied itself several times and hid the copies in several folders on the victim's hard drive.
  • It added new files to the victim's registry keys.
  • It replaced several different kinds of files with copies of itself.
  • It sent itself through Internet Relay Chat clients as well as e-mail.
  • It downloaded a file called WIN-BUGSFIX.EXE from the Internet and executed it. Rather than fix bugs, this program was a password-stealing application that e-mailed secret information to the hacker's e-mail address.

Who created the ILOVEYOU virus? Some think it was Onel de Guzman of the Philippines. Filipino authorities investigated de Guzman on charges of theft -- at the time the Philippines had no computer espionage or sabotage laws. Citing a lack of evidence, the Filipino authorities dropped the charges against de Guzman, who would neither confirm nor deny his responsibility for the virus. According to some estimates, the ILOVEYOU virus caused $10 billion in damages [source: Landler].

Now that the love fest is over, let's take a look at one of the most widespread viruses to hit the Web.

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