'Love Bug' Virus Swarms from Europe to U.S.

FRAMINGHAM (05/04/2000) - An e-mail virus that raged through Europe earlier today arrived in the U.S. this morning with a bang and is threatening to eclipse last year's Melissa virus in scope.

Called the "Love Bug," the virus is carried in an e-mail with "ILOVEYOU" in the subject line. A one-line message reads, "Kindly check the attached LOVELETTER coming from me." The accompanying attachment is named LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU-TXT.vbs.

If a user opens the attachment, the virus sends itself to all the contacts in the recipient's e-mail address book. Since many of the people listed in a typical address book will work for the same company, opening the attachment can cause it to resend the message to everyone again and again - a vicious circle that can ultimately cause the e-mail servers to overload and crash.

According to software security firms, the virus also overwrites music and picture files that use the extensions JPG, JPEG, MP3 and MP2.

The message appears to come from someone the recipient knows, so there's a good chance of catching people off-guard. That's what happened to Jennifer Solomon, a network specialist at the Connecticut Hospitals Association in Wallingford, Connecticut.

"I received a message that says 'I love you,' and I opened it because it came from someone I know," Solomon said. "It then sent messages out to everyone on my list. Everybody at work is getting messages."

The virus is already evidently spreading rapidly, Solomon added. "I work with all the area hospitals, and they say they've been receiving the message from avenues other than myself," she said. "People are just getting bombarded with e-mails."

The virus has been causing headaches in Europe today, with reports of problems in more than 20 countries.

Angela Micallef Trigona, a spokeswoman for GFI, a Malta-based security vendor that was among the first to warn of the virus, said major companies and organizations throughout Europe have been infected. Included on the hit-list was Britain's House of Commons, which had to suspend e-mail communication, she said.

"This worm spreads at an amazing speed," said Mikko Hypponen, manager of antivirus research at F-Secure Corp., a security vendor in Espoo, Finland.

"We got the first report around 9 a.m. on Thursday from Norway, and by 1 p.m., we had reports from over 20 countries," Hypponen said. "We estimate that the total number of infected machines is already in the tens of thousands. This epidemic might exceed Melissa in both speed and destructiveness."

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