ILOVEYOU: classic virus sent by email turns 22

One of the most classic and harmful viruses in the history of the internet celebrates 22 years of life this Wednesday (4). It was on this same date in the year 2000 that the love bugbetter known as ILOVEYOUbegan to circulate.

Despite being quite simple, the way of dissemination and the theme of the original message turned the threat into an attack of global proportions. It is estimated that, in ten days, it reached 45 million machines and generated a loss of up to US$ 10 billion, as it would have affected companies and servers of government entities.

It all starts with an email with a title “I love you”, sent by a contact on your list. The body of the message is even too formal for the occasion and very objective: “Please check the attachment LOVE LETTER sent by me”.

ILOVEYOU's email.ILOVEYOU’s email.Source: Billy Martins/YouTube

Inside is an attachment disguised as a TXT text file, but which actually contained a file in Visual Basic Script (VBS).

ILOVEYOU had two major consequences: if it replicated from emails sent by you to your entire Microsoft Outlook and overwrite all media files on the disc, including images, music, videos and some documents.

The body of the text with the attachment.The body of the text with the attachment.Source: Billy Martins/YouTube

Victims included the House of Commons, the UK Parliament, operator AT&T and even the Pentagon – all of whom had to spend time disconnected until the threat was isolated and detected.

Who created the ILOVEYOU virus?

The person responsible for Love Bug is Onel of Guzman, a young man born in the Philippines. While studying at AMA Computer University, he created a very similar software that aimed to steal the internet access password of other people in the country, so that he could browse free of charge. A teacher saw the proposal and the boy was unable to complete the course.

With minor modifications to the code, he created the new version and adopted the love theme because he thought it would be a good bait, since “many people wanted to date, they wanted each other and they wanted love”.

Onel by Guzman at the time of the virus.Onel by Guzman at the time of the virus.Source: CNN

In less than a month, Onel was identified by the FBI, located and arrested by authorities in his country. The young man even gave interviews and an official statement, but was not charged or arrested. The reason? The Philippines did not have specific laws for hacking or cybercrime.

The virus, on the other hand, was quickly contained, especially as it was quite simplified in programming — but it helped to spread several similar scams over the following years, with the most varied themes.

THE BBC located the boy in 2020. Working at a cellphone repair kiosk, he still lived in a district of the capital Manila and didn’t like the “fame” acquired as the creator of ILOVEYOU.

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