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The BBC's Lucy Atherton
"The virus has spread like wildfire"
 real 28k

Thursday, 4 May, 2000, 19:04 GMT 20:04 UK
'Love Bug' bites UK

A computer virus that carries the message "ILOVEYOU" is disabling computer networks across the UK.

One estimate says up to 10% of UK businesses have been hit by the bug, which is also being transmitted around the world.

The e-mails have raced across the country, reaching the NHS, universities, City of London institutions, and many large and small companies.

BT, Vodafone, Barclays, Scottish Power and Ford UK were among the giant firms affected.

The virus is programmed to delete all MP3 and image files

Andrew Fisher,
A spokesman for Lloyds of London insurers said the cost could easily run into tens of millions of pounds in the UK alone.

Even the House of Commons was cut off from electronic communication with the outside world, as the network was shut down to prevent the bug spreading.

It is believed the virus is programmed to delete some computer files, including MP3 music files and images, as well as raiding email addresses to multiply itself and send itself and other e-mails onwards.

The virus seems to attack only computers running Microsoft Windows and the popular 'Outlook' email software.

The "ILOVEYOU" bug reportedly first hit Asian firms before reaching the US, the UK and other European countries, spreading even more rapidly than the Melissa virus that plagued companies last year.

The virus appears in the form of an 'ILOVEYOU' e-mail with an attachment that people are encouraged to open.

Martin Eddolls, of Internet Marketing Management, describes it as "one of the nastiest I've seen".

It's one of the nastiest I've seen

Computer virus expert
Once opened it forwards itself using the personal and business address books of e-mails so the spread is rapid.

Another expert said: "It began spreading like wildfire, taking out computers left, right and centre."

Internet music firm was among those hit. It was forced to wipe its entire files, and painstakingly replace them from its back-up system, after technical staff the scale of the problem.

"It's a particularly malicious virus," said one of's technical directors, Andrew Fisher.

"We got back to the source code and realised it was basically programmed to delete all MP3 and image files, not just on the computer hard disk where it is received, but on all computers attached to that network."

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
And Mr Fisher says the virus is even programmed to resurrect itself when users believe the danger is over.

It can make itself look like an existing computer file, retriggering its deadly actions when users open what they believe to be an untouched file.

And it can also offer what appears to be anti-virus software when people log back on to their networks, but this is yet another trap, says Mr Fisher.

Business software firm Computer Associates says the virus also represents a major threat to privacy.

'Compromising security'

"It is compromising security and confidentiality," said Neil Cooper, general manager for Scotland.

"It can go into private e-mails and forward them to anybody in your contacts book."

Computer virus experts believe they have developed an antidote to the problem, and are working to distribute it.

Jack Clark, a spokesman for Network Associates which produces virus-busting software, told BBC News Online that the first plan of action is to raise people's awareness of the virus so they do not click on it.

The "Love Bug": Tempting to open
He said the company's switchboard had been jammed with calls from businesses, both in the UK and abroad.

The virus, identified as a "worm", takes a different form to the Melissa virus that struck last year.

The huge volume of e-mail being generated is overwhelming computers in companies and internet service providers.

Virus technologists at MessageLabs said that while Melissa generated 200 copies of the virus in its first day, the "Love Bug" managed to infect 1,200 people in the first three hours.

"The virus has used every possible way to spread itself," said a MessageLabs spokesman.

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See also:

04 May 00 | Sci/Tech
The spread menace
04 May 00 | Sci/Tech
'Love' virus chaos speads
26 Jan 00 | Sci/Tech
Old computer viruses still bite
15 Nov 99 | Sci/Tech
E-mail security bubble bursts
30 Mar 99 | Sci/Tech
Melissa virus goes global
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