Feeds

Traumatised email servers mark Love Bug anniversary

Six years ago today

New hybrid storage solutions

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. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Google recommends pronounceable passwords
Super Chrome goes into battle with Mr Mxyzptlk
Apple Pay is a tidy payday for Apple with 0.15% cut, sources say
Cupertino slurps 15 cents from every $100 purchase
Reddit wipes clean leaked celeb nudie pics, tells users to zip it
Now we've had all THAT TRAFFIC, we 'deplore' this theft
Enigmail PGP plugin forgets to encrypt mail sent as blind copies
User now 'waiting for the bad guys come and get me with their water-boards'
YouTube, Amazon and Yahoo! caught in malvertising mess
Cisco says 'Kyle and Stan' attack is spreading through compromised ad networks
TorrentLocker unpicked: Crypto coding shocker defeats extortionists
Lousy XOR opens door into which victims can shove a foot
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.