The man behind the world’s first serious computer virus has finally admitted guilt, after 20 years. His software infected millions of machines worldwide.
Filipino Onel de Guzman, now 44, says he unleashed the Love Bug computer worm to steal passwords so he could access the internet without paying. He claims he never intended it to spread globally.
And he says he regrets the damage his code caused. “I didn’t expect it would get to the US and Europe. I was surprised”, he said in an interview for Crime Dot Com, a forthcoming book on cyber-crime.
The Love Bug Virus began on 4th of May, 2000. Victims received an email attachment entitled LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU. It contains malicious code that overwrites files, steal passwords, and automatically send copies of itself to all contacts in the victim’s Microsoft Outlook address book. Within 24 hours, it was causing major problems across the globe, reportedly infecting 45 million machines.
In five hours, ILOVEYOU spread across Asia, Europe and North America, some 15 times faster than the Melissa virus did when it struck a year before, infecting over one million computers.
Guzman got away with it, not because the coppers could not track him down, but because there was a lack of a law in the Philipines to charge him with. That was fixed as a result of the Love Bug situation but the law could not be made retroactively.
The love bug and its variants would cause some $10 billion of damage, the FBI later estimated, before updates to anti-virus software and email clients reined them in. To this day, ILOVEYOU remains one of the farthest reaching viruses, striking millions of machines in countries across the world.