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Saturday, 6 May, 2000, 09:11 GMT 10:11 UK
Police close in on Love Bug culprit
The virus has been traced back to the Philippines
Philippine police have said they are close to catching the programmer suspected of creating the Love Bug virus which crippled millions of computers worldwide.

"I will confirm we are conducting an investigation," said Nelson Bartoleme, the head of the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation's anti-fraud and computer crimes division, hinting that an arrest could be made soon.

The virus, first detected in Asia on Thursday, spread rapidly through PCs, forcing network administrators to shut down electronic mail systems at major companies and penetrated the Pentagon, the CIA and the British Parliament.

Tackling the virus
Do not open it
Delete it using shift del
As with all e-mails, if in doubt do not run any attachments you are not expecting
If you have run the attachment, isolate your machine from any network and phone your help desk or seek expert advice
Remember to keep your anti-virus software up-to-date and be vigilant about attachments

The FBI and Interpol have been spearheading the hunt for the lone programmer who invented the virus. They have tracked the virus to the Philippines through an electronic trail left by the rogue e-mails.

The bug was traced back to two email addresses in the Phillipines.

Police have been reluctant to give details of their actions, but they have confirmed the suspect was a 23-year-old man living in the lower-middle class district of Pandacan in Manila.

But there is a possibility the virus could have originated in another city or country.

A Swedish computer expert who helped the FBI track down the Melissa computer virus has said the bug's creator is a German exchange student called Michael studying in Australia.

"He has exposed himself by leaving tracks in Usenet newsgroups," said Fredrik Bjoerck.

"The virus was activated from the Philippines but it's not certain that Michael was there in person."

In Lithuania, officials are investigating whether the virus might have come from there, after a Love Bug began circulating with the title, in Lithuanian, of "Let's meet this evening for coffee".

Copycat threat

The Love Bug is being called the fastest-moving and most widespread computer virus ever, wreaking havoc across the world.

The original virus was carried by emails with the subject line "ILOVEYOU", enticing users to click on the message, which then cripples their systems. Its second component stays in computers to steal passwords and e-mail them back to the originator of the virus.

Since then, numerous copycats variants of the virus has been detected in the form of Mother's Day gift notices, jokes, and anti-virus warnings.

Kevin Street, of internet security firm Symantec, said: "It's a race against time to create fixes that detect not only the virus but also the variants."

"Creating new strains is actually quite easy to do, and I can't see a limit on how many there could be - and that's a bit scary."

Counting the cost

Computer analysts say that the damage caused by the virus could run into billions of dollars.

Worldwide infection
3.1 million files worldwide
2.5m in North America
325,000 in Europe
129,000 in Asia
25,500 in Australia and New Zealand
Source: Trend Micro Inc
According to Trend Micro Inc, a leading provider of anti-virus software, some 3.1 million computer files had been infected worldwide by Friday morning.

In Japan, internet experts have said the bug spread quickly though the full extent of the damage will not be seen till Monday when millions of workers return from a long holiday break.

Trend Micro Inc said nearly 40,000 computers in Japan had already been infected virus.

In Latin America, Argentina appeared hardest hit with 150,000 users affected while the bug was mitigated in Asia because it was unleashed after the end of the business day.

New Zealand's largest telecommunications operator Telecom said on Saturday it had deleted more than 17,000 messages carrying the "Love Bug" computer virus from its Internet service and was searching for new variations.

In India, computer experts said the country escaped largely unscathed. They said only 10% of India's one million Internet subscribers have been hit by the "ILOVEYOU" virus due to local attitudes to sex and romance.

India's state-run Internet service provider VSNL, which caters to 350,000 users, claimed it had not been touched by the virus.

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See also:

04 May 00 | UK
'Love Bug' bites UK hard
15 Nov 99 | Sci/Tech
E-mail security bubble bursts
30 Mar 99 | Sci/Tech
Melissa virus goes global
06 May 00 | Sci/Tech
Why write computer viruses?
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