The ILOVEYOU WORM, also known as the Love Bug, is a turn of the century computer virus that surfaced in the year 2000 and invaded devices through an email attachment. Because it was written in VBScript, a derivative language of Microsoft’s Visual Basic technology, it benefited from the scripting engine that was part of the default settings in Windows operating systems. Over time it metamorphosed into one of the most dangerous viruses in history, carrying a myriad payloads capable of changing the nature of files, overwriting data and emailing other malware through the Microsoft Outlook client.
The virus was the doing of Onel de Guzman of the Republic of the Philippines, and he was a pioneer of sorts in what he did. The genius of the ILOVEYOU worm was that it used an emotional ploy to entice its would-be victims into opening email attachments. This model would go on to be replicated in many other types of malware. Guzman’s Love Bug was destructive and impacted a whopping 45 million machines worldwide, with damages estimated between 5 and 8 billion dollars.
The world came to know of the ILOVEYOU worm when messages originating in the Philippines began to appear in corporate inboxes of the western world. Because these messaged appeared to have come from known and/or verified people, recipients felt they were safe to open them. It only took a few people to fall for this ploy before for millions of similar messages began generating and literally bringing down email systems. Not only that, but millions of files on infected computers were overwritten, both locally and across networks. The mayhem the love bug caused could very well be considered the conceptualization of EFAIL, only it was twice as worst.
At a time when companies and organizations were first introducing Internet-capable PCs into their workflow, the ILOVEYOU worm effectively demonstrated how malware can shudder both business and industry. Mitigating its effects was quite a task and larger companies suffered the most. de Guzman and his alleged partner in crime, another young Filipino programmer named Reonel Ramones were never really charged by authorities. In those days, there was no Philippine law to address malware and other security-related issues.
Still, the brainchild of de Guzman and Ramones did manage to alert the world to the dangers of malicious code when implemented on a massive scale. The success of this computer worm showed just how easy it was to exploit human vulnerabilities like the need to be loved, and proved to be much more damaging than the Melissa virus which surfaced a year prior. While both these packages took advantage of the macroinstructions found in Microsoft’s family of productivity applications, the Melissa virus lacked the standalone property of worms like the Love Bug and Anna Kournikova virus that followed it. The Philippine Congress eventually introduced legislation (known as their E-Commerce Law) to prosecute computer crimes
The computer security apparatus has undoubtedly improved over the last two decades, but the fact of the matter is that humans tend to be emotionally vulnerable. So exploits like the ILOVEYOU worm remain as potent as ever to wreak havoc upon unsuspecting victims and computers across the world. Viewed from another perspective, it also shows the trajectory that cyber criminals would take to not only brag about their prowess, but benefit financially (albeit illegally).
That’s why cybersecurity is taken way more seriously these days—such that modern innovations like blockchain technology aim to remove the human element from its workflow. With digitization defining an all-new industrial revolution (Industry 4.0), cyber crime is certainly one of its major impediments. Awareness about cybersecurity is at an all-time high with industries and world governments engaging like never before.