World’s first global virus LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU creator tracked down to repair shop in Manila
If you are a millennial this could be news for you. Somewhere on a hot day on 4 May 2000, a virus called Love Bug was unleashed on the world computers. Within minutes of the release of the virus, it started infecting computers left to right and center. In a matter of days, the Love Bug virus had infected a whopping 45 million computers. The virus spread to North America, Europe, and Asia making it the first truly global virus to attack computers.
The virus started through social engineering with victims receiving an email attachment entitled LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU. In those days social engineering was unheard of and people clicked whatever was sent in emails. The Love Bug email contained a malicious code that would overwrite files, steal passwords, and automatically send copies of itself to all contacts in the victim’s Microsoft Outlook address book.
Such was the frenzy of the virus spread that within 24 hours, it was causing major problems across the globe, reportedly infecting 45 million machines. It caused the United Kingdom Parliament to shut down its email network for several hours to protect itself. The effect of the virus was even felt in Pentagon which shut down its Intranet email servers till the issue was resolved.
Companies, individuals, schools, organizations – none were spared by the virus overwhelmed the email systems.
Now the Love Bug finder has been found and he says he wrote the malicious code so he could enjoy the Internet without paying. You should understand that the Internet or Broadband was not as cheap as today. In fact, it could cost upwards of $100 for 100 hours of the Internet and that too at 56 Kbps through a dialup modem.
Who is love bug creator?
Filipino Onel de Guzman, now 44 and staying in Manila says he unleashed the Love Bug computer worm to steal passwords so he could access the internet without paying. He now has regrets for writing the malicious code that almost ruined millions of PCs in 2000.
“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.
Nearly a week after the virus was infecting PCs worldwide, Guzman was traced by investigators via an email address registered to an apartment in Manila, capital of the Philippines. Investigators found Guzman’s brother at the apartment. The brother divulged to the authorities that his brother was a computer science student at the city’s AMA Computer College and a member of an underground hacking group called Grammersoft. This lead the investigators to believe that Guzman was indeed the author of the malicious Love Bug which had infected nearly 45 million PCs worldwide. The Investigators believed that Guzman and his fellow student Michael Buen wrote the Love Bug code. After he was confronted, Guzman appeared in a press conference on 11 May, at which de Guzman appeared to speak little English.
When asked whether he may have released the virus accidentally, de Guzman said: “It is possible.”
However, in those days, not many countries had cybersecurity laws. Thus, the Philippines also didn’t have any law covering cybercrimes like computer hacking so Guzman and Grammersoft went scotfree.
Now he was again traced by Geoff White who was researching for his book Crimedotcom. White traced him to Manila through an underground forum. White found Guzman in April 2019 using some cloak and dagger methods.
Guzman admitted to White to having created Love Bug. He says that he had earlier written a malware to steal Internet access passwords. Love Bug was a revamped version of the same. He says he sent the virus through an email to someone in Singapore and forgot about it. He came to know about the global chaos the Love Bug created through his mother who told him police were hunting a hacker in Manila.
Guzman says he sent the virus only to Philippine victims so that he could steal internet access passwords. He later added the code to auto-spread the malware through Outlook contacts using a zero-day in Microsoft’s Windows 95. He says he chose the Love Letter For You as heading to lure people into opening the email. “I figured out that many people want a boyfriend, they want each other, they want to love, so I called it that,” he said.
Now Guzman lives a quiet life in a decrepit messy mobile phone repair shop in the Quiapo district of Manila.
All this for free Internet!!!