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Friday, 12 May, 2000, 16:40 GMT 17:40 UK
Net viruses: Can we ever stop them?

Bart Simpson's been at it, so has Melissa and Chernobyl. Now the latest internet virus has swept the world, crippling computers from London to Los Angeles.

The ILOVEYOU bug starts to bite as soon as you open up an attachment with an alluring email. And it spreads so rapidly, computer systems come crashing down costing business millions.

Major firms world-wide and even the House of Commons have been hit.

So is there anything we can do? If you are curious about who has sent you that amorous message, then even the best software safeguards will not protect you from the love bug. How can we beat the culprits who spread these viruses? HAVE YOUR SAY

Surely internet providers should consider adding anti-virus protection to their email service provision.

Frank Corrigan, UK
Can't blame Microsoft for the problem. Though I am not a big fan of Windows, it became the OS by choice by us the people. Blame the freeness of the Internet. Blame our need for less restriction. If Linux or MAC OS was where the popularity of Windows is now, there would be an "I love you" for those operating systems.
Russ Black, USA

Only if e-mail servers scan incoming messages of viruses before being sent to users would mankind control them. It's like having an immigration or customs desk for your computer.
Paolo Galarrita,

Why do people open a file which isn't of a type they know and recognise? If you don't know what it is leave it alone, or ask somebody that does know what it is before touching it.
Paul Ferrari, UK

To those who say "Don't blame Microsoft", ask yourself the following question: Why does an email client need a scripting language?
Surely all that is required is the ability to copy the email somewhere subject to a set of rules (both of which are user-definable), and to allow any attachments to be stored on disk for perusal at a later time - we certainly don't need Visual Basic running in the background just to read an email.
Gio, UK

This type of crime must be equated with theft of the same amount of money it takes to fix the damage

Josef, UK
The potential to create a computer virus is as limitless as the potential for someone to be a thief. It is not possible to make a computer totally virus proof as it is not possible to make a house totally burglar proof.
Due to the human in-built nature to do wrong there must be deterrents in place. This type of crime must be equated with theft of the same amount of money it takes to fix the damage from the virus and the perpetrator must be given an appropriate criminal sentence to that.
Josef, UK

I think the mayhem that the love bug has created, testifies to how dependent we have become on our electronic companions. Yes it's terrorism to send out vira which destroy peoples properties and their personal files, but you got to see the humour in the chaos that the bug has created world wide. A lot of rich companies are losing millions of dollars because of what, maybe just one man did. It's called guerrilla warfare. No chain is stronger than the weakest link.
Jonathan Rasmussen, Denmark

I find it rather worrying that apparently so many people in places like the UK Parliament and the US Pentagon had nothing better to do than open e mails from strangers which professed I love You! Don't' these people have jobs to do and where on earth was the required intellect?
Steve Halstead, United Arab Emirates

Federal government and the Industry should have not allowed to keep sensitive data in the PCs.

Simson Gnanam, USA
It is not Microsoft which has to be blamed but the thought-less industry which adopted the OS for much more serious work has to be blamed. As a PC OS, I appreciate Microsoft's work and even if I get the love bug virus I won't lose that worth of information. But Federal government and the Industry should have not allowed to keep sensitive data in the PCs. There should have been a clear line between PC data and serious data which has to be put in the server than in the PC. As far as the statement "it could have happened to Unix flavours also" is concerned, no sir, the way Unix is designed it is very difficult for viruses to survive. But, however thanks to Microsoft without which we couldn't have the anti-virus software industry!
Simson Gnanam, USA

A great many of these viruses are clearly the fault of Microsoft's lack of concern on security matters. It is completely irresponsible to market commercial software that modifies files other than cache on the basis of e-mail or http transfers without explicit permission from the computer owner. Microsoft has sold a defective product and should be forced to pay for the cost of viruses it could have prevented with reasonable effort, just as any other manufacturer must. If they want to treat their programs as "intellectual property", they must be held responsible for the damage caused by their property.
Rod Dunn, USA

With freedom comes risks and dangers, if you don't want the risk and dangers don't push for freedom. As for those who are attacking Microsoft. If another OS was the standard the viruses would be written in them.
Richard T. Ketchum, USA

A virus like the love bug can be prevented technically. Unix or Linux are the examples. As a computer science student, I have to say Microsoft is indeed good at winning computer market, but that's all?
Leo Young, The Netherlands

The problem exists in human nature rather than the Internet.

Adam Low, UK
The Internet community is much the same as the communities we all live in today, the problem exists in human nature rather than the Internet, if we can find a solution to everyday crime then we can begin to find one for Internet crime.
Adam Low, UK

I am studying marketing, and a modern form of marketing, particularly when targeting the "young and trendy", is so-called "viral" email marketing. This means sending a game (or other form of attachment which promotes your company) out to the email addresses of a number of leading edge consumers, and hoping they will find it interesting enough to pass it to their friends. Levis are an example of a company which does this. I wonder if this trend is encouraging people to open attachments without really knowing what they are, just that they come from a friend?
Cerys, UK

I received three copies of this virus all from people I had never heard of. I was immediately suspicious as to why someone would be sending me a VB Script file so naturally I didn't open it but rather saved it as text and took a look at the code.
I am in the luxurious position of being in the software business so this scepticism comes naturally to me. I strongly feel that there is a lot more that Microsoft could have done to protect people from virus attacks which are now commonly sent in this fashion.
Nick, The Netherlands

If Microsoft had any brains, they'd employ the person who did it.

Vuk Milutinovic, UK
Love bug is just an example of what mess Microsoft technology is in. Non-Windows platforms had no problem with the virus. And suggestions that you should check and know everything about an email before you open it is just ridiculous. It's like installing an X-ray machine on your letter box, so you don't get a bomb. Post office (server) worries about that, not the recipient (client). If Microsoft had any brains, they'd employ the person who did it.
Vuk Milutinovic, UK

I don't understand why one has to run an attachment without being sure about it being safe. I am no computer expert but I am careful enough not to open an attachment unless I know who has sent it. It's due to our negligence that LOVEBUG has caused so much damage world wide.
Abhijeet Kumar Sen, India

There is no way we can wipe out the viruses once and for all.

C.K. Chan, Singapore
Sad to say, the invention of the Internet, which once meant to be the access to information and communication brought along so much problems. The existence of viruses is due to the curiosity and pride of the maker. Each time the virus causes menace, it will spur him to create more deadly viruses.
There is no way we can wipe out the viruses once and for all. The only possible way to reduce the problem is to enforce education to the proper use of the Internet and parents have a great job in educating their kids to put their knowledge into better uses. The Law on abuse of the Internet should also be enforced
C.K. Chan, Singapore

ILOVEYOU is simply Melissa with some more thought about the message to bait the user into running it. As long as users remain ignorant, it will happen again. The global dependence on a single operating system (Windows9x) makes things worse.

How can you call the virus creator a culprit? The culprit is Microsoft! The Virus creator has done a great job of identifying another huge gaping hole in Microsoft software and created a warm inside me!
Kai Hendry, UK

Of course it can be stopped, if leading technology companies join together against them.

Xhengis Aliu, Macedonia
We are entering a new age of technology that can make our lives easier and in the same time can make our lives very hard. I think that the power of this new technology, which is misused by some individuals, can start a new World War.
It doesn't mean that it can't be stopped. Of course it can be stopped, if leading technology companies join together against them (hacking and producers of these destructive viruses). They are the only ones (of course after God) that can help us. They can protect us from this dark side of the technology which has a power to destroy the whole Planet. Just imagine what would happen if someday someone from some corner of the world, creates a virus, launches it and (unpredictably) it attacks and make problems at some nuclear central¿.?
Xhengis Aliu, Macedonia

Pen and paper never had a virus problem.

Viruses are a serious menace, they now attack ordinary people. It may have been "cool" at one point to attack big business, however, modern viruses attack people less able to defend themselves, i.e. new users, schools, hospitals and so on.
Gareth, UK

Hopefully some good can come of this by way of people knowing that Microsoft are not the only software company out there.

G Halford, UK
Microsoft should of learnt by now that scripting is a security risk. They have the resources to stop this rather than building software with features nobody uses except virus writers. Hopefully some good can come of this by way of people knowing that Microsoft are not the only software company out there (I work in ITC and believe me some people do).
G Halford, UK

I can't believe someone has this much time on his hands to create such havoc on these countries, and destroy so many things people had cherished such as their pics and things. I really hope he gets what he deserves boy I know I would love to meet him.
Wendy, USA

The only way to stop these viruses at the moment is by educating users.

Duncan, Michigan, USA
I have heard anecdotal evidence that IT students are actually required to write viruses, as part of a "know your enemy" method of teaching how to prevent viruses damaging computer systems. If this is true, it may raise human nature considerations in the question of how to stop the proliferation of viruses. If one teaches another how to make and use a more effective weapon, surely the idea would occur to the other sooner or later to actually use it. Other contributors have suggested hiring these virus authors as firewall designers. It's already the stuff of modern legend that many former hackers are now IT security consultants, so the idea is not a new one -- but it is still a valid suggestion.
David H, Australia

The only way to stop these viruses at the moment is by educating users. I do not run ANY attachments from anyone unless the mail note also contains a personalised note telling me what the attachment is. Even if my wife sends me an attachment, I am not going to run it unless I know what it is.
Duncan, Michigan, USA

I think that many of you may be missing the obvious cure for the malady that is computer virus: punishment. The authors of Melissa, CIH Chernobyl and such modern age plagues should not be fined and given token jail sentences; they should be put away for life...preferably in hard labour as a warning to others. This is an aspect of the problem that no one seems to take seriously.
Fredrik Bäck, Finland

Viruses can never be completely eliminated. Every time a security loophole is identified and blocked, someone somewhere will find a new hole.

Paul Harris, UK
Viruses can never be completely eliminated. Every time a security loophole is identified and blocked, someone somewhere will find a new hole. This is particularly a problem on the PC because the configuration of virtually every PC in the world is subtly different - different applications, different hardware, different user options.
The only secure PC is one that is totally isolated from the outside work - not on a network and with no access to the internet.
Paul Harris, UK

Computers and the Internet have become such a huge phenomenon, anyone can now use them. Viruses such as these spread because of STUPID PEOPLE who do not know what they are doing with computers. People point out that 'it says it is from someone you know', but how many people you know would send you a love e-mail rather than saying it to your face?
Fraser, UK

Having examined in some detail how ILOVEYOU works, let me explain that the only part of the "virus" (actually a worm) that is specific to Microsoft Outlook is the replication engine which uses the Outlook address book. The destructive payload of the program - overwriting files - does not depend on Outlook at all. True, it uses the Windows Scripting engine, which is a Microsoft product. But then again, the same effect could have been packaged as a .EXE file.
The real reason for the scale of this outbreak has nothing to do Microsoft, and everything to do with user lack of caution in opening unidentified attachments.
Andy Cook, France

You can't tell people that they are safe if they only accept attachments from people they know because this virus specifically spreads to people you know. There isn't a loophole that allows infection it's the way the email program works to allow you to run an attached file. Training is needed to get PC users to understand what is happening when email is received. NEVER blindly try out an attachment. If you don't know what it is and you weren't expecting it then get rid of it. Don't blame Microsoft products for making it easier tor you to make a fool of yourself as well as do your work.
Mike Richards, UK

It is unfair to try and blame Microsoft for the problem. If a vandal smashes your car windscreen do you blame the maker for not fitting a bulletproof screen?

Adrian Matthews, England
It is unfair to try and blame Microsoft for the problem. If a vandal smashes your car windscreen do you blame the maker for not fitting a bulletproof screen? At the end of the day people target Microsoft because 90% of businesses have their software. If 90% ran another company's software then the virus writers would target them. If the ability to run macros in Excel, Word and Web pages was removed it would have a far more damaging effect than any virus.
Adrian Matthews, England

I cannot understand why so many people are saying that we should not open emails from people we don't know. I received an email with the ILOVEYOU virus from someone I know very well and there wasn't any reason why I should not open it.
Louise Camilleri, Denmark

A security measure implemented by some companies is to automatically reject incoming e-mails with executable attachments (.exe, .vbs etc.). Other than games/jokes, when was the last time you received a useful executable? Genuinely important files can be sent as zip files, so "accidental" execution becomes less likely.
John Matthews, UK

Curiously, almost no one seems to realise that this virus is not any kind of very diabolically devious software. If the email clients were designed to get first the headers and only and only then the messages themselves - provided you asked for it, and especially, if opening of an attachment wouldn't launch any extra applications (or at least if that would be easy to configure), this kind of viruses would not work. That's all there is to it.
Ivan the Terrible, US

A virus is something that cannot reproduce by itself. It must acquire resource some something else. Modern infomation viruses spread, not by hijacking your computer, but by hijacking you! The "I love you" spead so quickly because it is human nature to read a message from someone they know that says "I love you". (Of course, the modern trend towards sending even the simplest memo as an MS Word attachment doesn't help: people get used to opening attachments).
Dave Whipp, USA/UK

We could all get back into the habit of sending letter by post, they really can be efficient when they put their minds to it, and while we are at it why not go back to using the horse and cart before someone puts something in the oil...
Frank Park, England

We could all get back into the habit of sending letters by post, they really can be efficient when they put their minds to it, and while we are at it why not go back to using the horse and cart before someone puts something in the oil...

Frank Park, England
Isn't it amazing how a few comments from the media can have everyone running around frantically worrying what will happen next. Well we all know that there are shady people out there creating these computer viruses. Now until we can figure out a way to beat these viruses all you can do is think twice about opening an e-mail and don't open e-mails from people you don't know. Most of all stay calm. I mean really, who wants these idiot's getting to us normal people.
Melissa, New Zealand

As a child you're told to walk away from a sweet-talking stranger; why then curiously open any emails with attachment from someone unknown to you?
Ron Brandenburg, The Netherlands

While I don't think that people should write viruses, it's always entertaining to watch the fallout - particularly in such cases as this, where the media stir up paranoia. Admittedly, this is a relatively serious virus, and has caused a lot of inconvenience. Events such as this highlight the incredible stupidity of users and system administrators worldwide, who continue to use Microsoft products despite the repeated proof that they are simply not secure. Anyone running mail software that does not execute vb-script will not have been affected by this virus. It's time the commercial world took Linux and other free operating systems far more seriously -they have been written by people who know what they are doing.
Denis Walker, UK

We should also consider the social engineering aspect of this one. Are people in the West really so desperate for a little affection that so many of them felt compelled to open a message professing love despite all the warnings not to? Not many IT firms were hit by it, yet aren't we the ones constantly told to get ourselves a life and/or a girlfriend?
Andrew, Belgium

I sincerely regret the stance even now being adopted by the many net users on virus impacts: why blame the the Microsoft software or their wonderful trolling browsers and netsurf aids? There is only one simple devise to protect your PC from any virus attack: get offline fast! But seriously, one should just avoid opening ANY e-mail which is an unknown entity. And keep your Outlook and Explorers running - along with the Netscapes and Linuxes et al.
Mateen Mohajir, Pakistan

It's all very well advising people not to open attachments from people they don't know - but because of the way this virus, and many others, are propagated, chances are it is going to be forwarded to you by someone who has your e-mail address in their address book - ie it's most likely to come from someone you DO know !
Dave, New Zealand

If the world thought the 'Love' virus was bad, wait until the 'Hate' and 'Pride' viruses are produced...!
Sean, Canada

I think the best way is don't use Microsoft Mail till the Microsoft plug the bug.
Vinod Dhawan, India

I feel this is an opportunity to let everyone know that not a single Macintosh computer was affected by this virus. It just shows the the superiority of the Mac file systems and also the amount of security that a closed interface GUI offers. Macs are hardly attacked by viruses due to the fact that they are not as prevalent as windows, their OS architecture keeps them from having so many holes in security as Windows (Mac OS is an extremely tight operating system) and lastly, viruses are harder to create for Macs. My recommendation: Go Mac, and you won't go wrong.
Mark, United States

The blame should not be put on Microsoft, the fact is, that the virus was targeted at the most widely used email package. Most non-Microsoft mail readers will contain exactly the same flaws as the Microsoft products. The only reason that other email systems are not affected is due to the fact that every email reader is different. It would be nearly impossible to make the virus 'compatable' with all email packages.
Stephen, England

The ILOVEYOU virus has been so devastating because of its immensely rapid expansion, getting round normal virus protection systems by getting onto target systems before the anti virus signatures have been developed. It is no longer sufficient to rely on the nightly file updates to ensure that systems are safe. Users will need to be much more careful about opening file attachments and private use of email in companies is likely to be curtailed. As an interim measure, network managers may wish to consider setting their anti virus systems to place messages with attachments into quarantine for 24hrs, only releasing messages earlier on request for clearly urgent cases.
Michael Bruce, United Kingdom

The think-tank of Microsoft could stop producing low graded Outlooks - this might put an end to this virus and there again we all should have common sense in opening mail massagers.
Shanaz Sheriff, Sri Lanka

Today, my company was infected with the ILOVEYOU virus. I work as a LAN Supervisor and my users started receiving the virus mail at about 9am and so we took the mail system down for almost the whole day to clean it up and as a precaution to stop it spreading any further. I just hope they are going to catch the person(s) responsible.
Simon, UK

We don't trust all the junk mail that we get through our letterbox so why do people trust their e-mail? An e-mail virus is the equivalent of a letterbomb. Letterbombs do get through, some e-mail viruses will too.
Brian Blackmore, UK

Surely the BBC has responsibility to the truth, to explain fully?
I have just watched your lead item on BBC News 24 and then read your headline article on the web. In neither do you take the time to explain that the danger lays with those running Microsoft Windows and Outlook. No, you use the blanket term "computers".
If one particular car company manufactured a vehicle which could be caused to crash remotely would you write "Cars have this problem" or the more accurate "Company X cars have this problem"?
This problem is the direct responsibility of the Microsoft designers in that they created an operating system and applications in which virus thrive. That is the part of the story you should be telling.
Gary Mitchell, England

It's amazing that people obviously don't learn from mistakes. Such viruses should be spread each week, so that people start to realise that Microsoft products are not safe although they are expensive. It's not the viruses that are the problem, but the overwhelming stupidity of many users of Microsoft products.
They would probably even open parcels which are ticking and looking like a bomb. Hopefully, these viruses will also paralyse the entire network of Microsoft, so that they have time to remove their bugs and security holes.
Klaus Mayer, Germany

It's simple if you want to avoid an e-mail virus you use a web based e-mail client, such as Hotmail or Yahoo.
Chris Jones, England

Hire some of these devious 14 and 15 year old cyber vandals and let them design "firewalls" to protect from this nonsense. We adults don't seem to be able to cope.
Peter Kohler, USA

I heard about the latest virus from Radio 1 news this afternoon. I immediately went to my favourite anti-virus website (Sophos) to cut through the hype.
What a surprise. Judging from the Sophos description, if you don't use Microsoft's products to read your mail or browse the web, (I do neither), then the virus is rendered almost totally harmless. It's time there was a mass public education campaign - Outlook and Outlook Express are broken by design and contain many glaring security holes. Melissa, Bubbleboy etc. don't spread because they exploit security holes in Outlook, but rather because they make use if programmed features of the software! Get a mail client that is not produced by Microsoft, (they are available), and you'll be a lot safer.
And remember as well: NEVER open attachments on mail messages from people you don't know or don't trust. Simple common sense can work wonders sometimes.
Dominic Jackson, England

Simply avoid using Microsoft related email software seems to be the answer as there are so many 'back doors' through its so-called security net
Paul Winstanley, UK

Unfortunately, virus authors will always try to make the biggest impact possible, and therefore, even if Microsoft products were not used (such as Outlook), they would certainly target other mainstream mail applications.
Virus authors are motivated by creating mass chaos. I am concerned that the Pentagon and the House of Commons are so vulnerable to a virus. It may be feasible one day for the virus to interrogate their networks and pose a threat to our national security.
David Knowles, UK

Dominic Jackson says "NEVER open attachments on mail messages from people you don't know or don't trust. Simple common sense can work wonders sometimes." - well, this Love virus spreads precisely because it is sent by people who have you in their address book. Not much common sense there, eh Dominic?
Phil Wade, England

Will people ever learn? If you don't know what it is, don't open it! Any unsolicited Emails sent to you from people you don't know should be deleted as soon as possible. Not only does this protect you from viruses but it also discourages spammers.
Another way to protect yourself is to use Microsoft products as little as possible. Because so many of us are using Microsoft products as a standard, the creators of these viruses write them with this in mind. For instance, the "Happy" virus affected users of "Internet Explorer" almost exclusively.
James, Canada

I don't believe we can 'beat' the people who do something like this. What we can do is LEARN from it. It is a year since 'Melissa' and I really cannot understand why everyone is so shocked at this latest 'prank'. Unfortunately the media is having a field day and spreading paranoia about 'accessing passwords'. The worst aspect is the UK government trying to use this as a vehicle to bring in the RIP bill.
All that is necessary is for software companies (especially Microsoft) to plug the 'loopholes' in their products. I am no expert but I do possess a modicum of 'common sense'. I just hope the 'hysteria' does not contribute to an infringement of my civil rights.
Susan Small, UK

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See also:

04 May 00 | Sci/Tech
'Love' virus chaos speads
04 May 00 | UK
'Love' bug bites UK
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