Study: the Cost of Love Bug Could Reach $10 Billion

FRAMINGHAM (05/05/2000) - Computer Economics Inc., a market research firm in Carlsbad, California, today said the "I Love You" virus that swept around the world yesterday could cause damages of at least $2.6 billion to companies and other organizations that were hit.

And the cost of the havoc wreaked by the virus could eventually reach $10 billion, according to Computer Economics, which estimated that more than 45 million e-mail users received the virus yesterday.

Melissa, the highly publicized e-mail worm that was unleashed last year, "pales in comparison to this virus," said Samir Bhavnani, an analyst at Computer Economics. The new virus "spread at such a speed" and led to a fast flurry of copycat viruses, said Bhavnani, who described the latest outbreak as "economic terrorism."

One user who experienced the speed and power of the "I Love You" virus is Linda Stewart, corporate data security administrator at Idaho Power in Boise, Idaho.

Stewart said her team detected the virus at 7:20 a.m. on Thursday and shut down the utility company's Internet and Exchange messaging servers by 7:45. But in the span of those 25 minutes, the virus had replicated itself throughout 1,800 e-mailboxes and into network files in the company's 90-PC server farm.

"It was 100-fold, (maybe) 1,000-fold worse than Melissa," Stewart said. "We have four levels of virus protection, but because this made it into the wild so quickly, and everyone was so blindsided, none of our protective measures in place was effective."

Stewart's team didn't put Idaho Power's internal messaging servers back online until 1:45 a.m. this morning, and the utility's Internet servers were down until 11:30 a.m. today. In addition, several users who didn't utilize the network backup system lost data, she said.

Stewart said it's still too early to assess the long-term business fallout and what the virus cost Idaho Power. "But it is significant," she added.

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