Application security

Summer of Love Bug started six years ago today


Today marks the sixth anniversary of the release of the so-called Love Bug, a mass email worm that spread to millions of PCs worldwide and was responsible for an estimated $10 billion in economic damage.

But while May 4, 2000, seems a relatively short time ago, the computer threat landscape dramatically has changed since Filipino college student Onel de Guzman wrote the bug, which fooled computer users into clicking on an attachment that supposedly contained a love letter. Instead, this virus destroyed files, replicated itself and sought user passwords so its creators could cheaply access the internet.

Nowadays, sophisticated and targeted trojan attacks dominate the landscape, said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos.

"At the time of the Love Bug, most malware was written to show off, rather than to make money," he said. "The new organized criminal gangs behind malware don't want their attack to hit the headlines, as that will increase the public's awareness about the threat. So they use trojan horses, which can target a small number of people at one time, rather than mass-mailing worms that could infect millions around the globe at once."

According to Sophos, 21 percent of threats discovered in 2001 were trojans, whereas that type of malware now makes up 86 percent of threats.

"Trojans are often spammed out to unsuspecting users, or planted on websites, in an attempt to secretly install themselves on victims' computers," Cluley said. "Once in place, they can open backdoors for hackers to steal information, including sensitive data such as banking passwords."

Charges against Guzman were dropped in 2000 because, at the time, the Philippines did not have any laws against computer misuse.

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