Study: 'Love' Virus Damages Approaching $7 Billion

BOSTON (05/09/2000) - Last week's "ILOVEYOU" virus and its numerous variants have cost businesses, governments and other technology users a total of $6.7 billion in damages so far, according to an estimate released today by Computer Economics Inc. in Carlsbad, California.

Computer Economics previously said the amount of damage caused by the fast-moving e-mail virus could ultimately reach $10 billion. Analysts at the technology market research firm have said the impact of last year's Melissa virus pales in comparison to what was done to computers by the "ILOVEYOU" virus, which spread around the world at lightning speed last Thursday.

But Lloyd Hession, an analyst at Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Giga Information Group Inc., said trying to put a dollar figure on the damage isn't easy.

The cost of virus outbreaks can be a subjective thing to quantify, said Hession, who works in Giga's New York office. For example, he said, information technology staffers "were hired specifically to handle system support . . . and to be available if and when problems pop up."

That would include viruses, Hession added. Extra costs might have been racked up if IT staffs had to come in last weekend, but those would be "truly marginal," he said.

Six days after the "ILOVEYOU" virus first appeared, more variants continue to pop up. For example, Islandia, N.Y.-based Computer Associates International Inc. today reported a new variant of the virus that masquerades as a message in Portugeuse. If the message is launched, CA said, the so-called Variant R could overwrite data and program files, rendering applications unusable.

The virus-laden e-mail contains the subject line, "PresentUO UOL," with the body containing this message: "UOL tem um grande presente para voce, e eh exclusivo. Veja o arquivo em anexo."

CA translated the message as, "UOL has a big present for you, and it's exclusive. Look at the file in the attachment." The attachment file is named UOL.TXT.vbs, CA said.

Meanwhile, the hunt for the creator of the original virus continues. According to reports from the Philippines, a man taken into custody by that country's National Bureau of Investigation yesterday was released earlier today after prosecutors said there wasn't enough evidence to warrant an arrest.

But the man, described as an employee of a bank's IT department, is scheduled to appear before authorities again on May 19, the reports said. And the Philippine authorities are still said to be interested in questioning his girlfriend and potentially her sister, who both shared an apartment with the man.

In the U.S., the FBI continues its probe into the virus, said Debbie Weierman, a spokeswoman for the law-enforcement agency. Weierman confirmed that a man had been detained for questioning in the Philippines, but she said the FBI was unaware of any arrests or charges in the case.

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