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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.Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.
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?
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.
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.
To those who say "Don't blame Microsoft", ask yourself the following question: Why does an email client need a scripting language?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
A virus like the love bug can be
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?
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?
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.
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.
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!
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
i.e. new users, schools,
hospitals and so on.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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...
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?
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.
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
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.
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 !
If the world thought the 'Love' virus was bad, wait
until the 'Hate' and 'Pride' viruses are produced...!
I think the best way is don't use Microsoft Mail till
the Microsoft plug the bug.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Surely the BBC has responsibility to the truth, to explain fully?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
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.
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