The Malware Hall of Fame: The ‘ILOVEYOU’ Virus

If you’re hoping to receive a comforting Valentines Day email this year, just make sure you’re not opening the wrong one. The ILOVEYOU virus, while seemingly innocent, is by far one of the worst viruses to date. It currently holds the Guinness World Record for “most virulent virus of all time”, causing nearly $15 billion in damages!

The 'ILOVEYOU' Virus screenshot.

What is it?

ILOVEYOU was a computer worm that hit computers in early May 2000. Victims would receive an email with the title “ILOVEYOU“, which would contain a seemingly innocent email attachment. Once opened, the virus quickly took control, sending copies of itself to everyone in the victim’s email address book. As the virus spread, it also destroyed much of the victim’s hard drive, renaming and deleting thousands of files.

Where does the name come from?  

The email attachment, which posed as an innocent text file, was given the cutesy name of LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU.TXT.

What does it do?

  • Posing as a .txt file, the file was actually an executable (.exe) attachment, which inevitably tricked recipients into opening the attachment.
  • Once opened it replicated itself and hid in various folders on the user’s hard drive, replacing files with copies of itself.
  • Then it downloaded an executable file (.exe) onto the user’s PC to steal personal information.
  • Finally it accessed the email address book and sent itself out to other recipients.

How was ILOVEYOU created?

  • Onel de Guzman, a student at a local computer college, wrote the beginnings of the virus as a thesis for school, though the thesis was quickly rejected.
  • Originating in the Philippines, there were no present antivirus laws, which technically made the virus legal
  • After his arrest, Guzman was released with all charges dropped
  • Due to the global threat that ILOVEYOU posed and the monetary impact on major companies, the Philippines and many other countries worldwide set up laws against writing malware.
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What now?

Even though the ILOVEYOU virus is long gone, we can still learn a few key lessons from its impact on the world of cybersecurity.

  • Don’t open suspicious emails, even from friends & family – one thing that ILOVEYOU has taught us is that malware can come in any shape or form, even if it seems innocent at first. If you’ve received an unprompted email that contains an attachment, make sure to think twice before opening it.
  • Keep backups of your data one of the reasons ILOVEYOU had such a huge impact was due to the fact that many of its victims didn’t have their data backed up. Backing up your data ensures that you can still access important files even if your computer is compromised. Check out our handy guide to backing up your computer here!
  • Use a strong antivirus program and an even stronger virus removal device – having a strong antivirus program ensures that most malicious activity is picked up right away and blocked from your computer. At FixMeStick we always recommend McAfee Total Protection for your antivirus needs. But no one is perfect…

    In some cases an antivirus can let viruses slip by. To maximize your computer’s security we recommend running monthly FixMeStick scans – even if viruses manage to slip by, the FixMeStick can act as your computer’s safety net.

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    Want an extra layer of protection? Make sure to run your FixMeStick every month to catch any lingering threats!

1 comment

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