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The BBC's John McLean
"The NBI has never had to deal with a case of computer hacking"
 real 28k

Monday, 8 May, 2000, 14:21 GMT 15:21 UK
Love Bug suspect detained
Cyber cafe
The virus has been traced back to the Philippines
Criminal investigators in the Philippines have detained a 27-year-old man after searching the home of the suspected creator of the "Love Bug" virus which has caused havoc in computers worldwide, officials say.

Reomel Ramones - a computer analyst with a Philippines bank - was questioned by National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) officers before being led in handcuffs from the rear of the apartment in the Pandacan area of the capital, Manila.

Irene de Guzman, a 23-year-old woman who shares the apartment, is also under suspicion.

NBI chief Federico Opinion said she had sent a message through legal counsel that she would present herself to authorities later on Monday or on Tuesday.

The investigators seized 17 items - but no computer - from the apartment, local residents' council chairman Gil Alnas told reporters.

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

NBI agents obtained a search warrant after investigating the source of the virus, which penetrated computers including those of the Pentagon, CIA and UK Parliament last week.

The "Love Bug" was quickly traced back to the Philippines and the NBI began watching their suspect, who they identified as a young computer student from a middle-class family, on Saturday.

But no search warrant could be obtained until Monday because hacking is not a crime under Philippines law - one was eventually issued under the Access Device Act, governing codes, account numbers and passwords.

Offences against this act can carry a maximum 20 year jail sentence.

Detectives struggle

It is the first time the NBI has investigated a case of computer crime and a lack of experience may have hampered inquiries, say newspapers.

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

"The user here is invisible, it could be anybody," said an official. "The difference is that the person we have identified is the registered owner of that computer."

But the official acknowledged that the suspect could have erased evidence.

The Washington Post newspaper said the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) traced the virus to the Philippines through a fairly obvious electronic trail and was ready to seize computers used in the attack once it had received permission.

FBI agents were assisting the Philippines in the investigation, said Nelson Bartolome, head of the NBI's anti-fraud and computer crimes division.

"They are providing us with technical expertise on computers. They will help analyse the seized evidence, if ever we get it," he said.

A computer expert in Sweden said on Saturday he believed an 18-year-old German exchange student in Australia was responsible for the virus.

But Australian Federal Police said on Sunday they had no evidence to back up the allegation.

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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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