Feeds

Traumatised email servers mark Love Bug anniversary

Six years ago today

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Thursday 4 May marks the sixth anniversary of the spread of the infamous Love Bug (AKA ILOVEYOU) worm, a mass mailer that infected numerous Windows computers worldwide. Even those not infected directly found their email inboxes filed with junk, an experience that was to be repeated several times over subsequent years.

The Love Bug worm tricked users into thinking they'd received a message from a secret admirer. But if the attachment was opened on a Windows PC, the worm would leave it infected while forwarding copies of itself to email addresses harvested from compromised PCs. The suspected author of the worm, Filipino student Onel de Guzman, was arrested but escaped prosecution because of a lack of relevant laws. Laws designed to combat computer misuse in the Philippines were only introduced in June 2000 and weren't backdated, allowing de Guzman to avoid trial.

The worm used VBScripts to spread, popularising a technique that was then comparatively rare. Security experts attributed its success in spreading to its use of a love bait as an enticement, which proved to be a powerful psychological draw to bored office workers and consumers. The worm was first spotted on 3 May 2000, but its spread didn't begin in earnest until the following day, 4 May 2000.

Much has changed in the malware landscape over the intervening six years, according to UK-based net security firm Sophos. The Love Bug, and the less prolific but still virulent Melissa worm that preceded it, heralded the hay-day of mass-mailing worms that relied on social engineering to spread such attacks are now rare. Targeted Trojan and spyware attacks now represent a far greater security challenge.

In 2001, 21 per cent of all threats discovered by Sophos were Trojan horses. By April 2006 this figure had shot up to 86 per cent as hackers used Trojan horses to download malicious code, spy on users, steal information, or seize control of infected PCs. The Love Bug was conceived as a means of stealing internet connection passwords in order to give its creators cheap access to the net, making it something of a forerunner to today's menaces.

The Love Bug popularised the use of social engineering tricks to spread email worms by tricking users into double-clicking on malicious attachments. For example, the Anna Kournikova worm posed as pictures of the Russian tennis pin-up. Other malware strains offered infected files supposedly connected to Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and Jennifer Lopez.

Sophos experts say financially-motivated hackers now prefer to use Trojan horses rather than mass-mailing worms because there's a greater pay off in avoiding the public attention a major outbreak brings. Publicity about a viral epidemic tends to make users more wary, while creating a motive for police to apply more resources towards identifying culprits, an outcome cyberciminals are keen to avoid. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
George Clooney, WikiLeaks' lawyer wife hand out burner phones to wedding guests
Day 4: 'News'-papers STILL rammed with Clooney nuptials
Shellshock: 'Larger scale attack' on its way, warn securo-bods
Not just web servers under threat - though TENS of THOUSANDS have been hit
Apple's new iPhone 6 vulnerable to last year's TouchID fingerprint hack
But unsophisticated thieves need not attempt this trick
PEAK IPV4? Global IPv6 traffic is growing, DDoS dying, says Akamai
First time the cache network has seen drop in use of 32-bit-wide IP addresses
Oracle SHELLSHOCKER - data titan lists unpatchables
Database kingpin lists 32 products that can't be patched (yet) as GNU fixes second vuln
Who.is does the Harlem Shake
Blame it on LOLing XSS terroristas
Researchers tell black hats: 'YOU'RE SOOO PREDICTABLE'
Want to register that domain? We're way ahead of you.
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.