Version History: The ‘I Love You’ Virus


I Love You Virus

Love may be in the air this month but think twice before you open an email with a flirtatious subject line this Valentine’s Day. Everything may not be as it seems, as the world found out in 1999 when the ‘I Love You’ virus messed with people’s hearts as well as their computers.

What was the ‘I Love You’ Virus?

Cruel, that’s what it was. At least, that’s what millions of love-sick hopefuls thought when this infamous worm infected their computers. Techies called it the Melissa Virus, but the public generally knew it as I Love You, Love Bug or Love Letter For You.

It was a clever little scam that used the human need to be wanted to dupe millions of unsuspecting victims. The virus transmitted via email with the subject line ‘I Love You’. Back in the day when people were far less suspicious of malicious emails, it was the perfect ruse.

When poor Derek in your IT department received this email from Deborah in Accounts, he thought she was confessing her feelings for him. His ego took over, and he opened the email, along with millions of other Dereks around the world. But Deborah didn’t love Derek. She was unknowingly sending him a virus that had randomly corrupted files on her machine. Unfortunately for Deborah, the worm sent itself to everyone on her contacts list. She earned herself quite a reputation that year.

What was the impact?

Various sources around the net estimate that the virus caused US $5.5–8.7 billion in damages worldwide. In just 10 days, over fifty million infections were reported and a whopping 10% of computers were estimated to have been infected. The Love Bug wreaked so much havoc that the British Parliament, CIA and the Pentagon, along with other large organisations shut their mail systems down completely.

But the damage didn’t stop there. The Pet Shop Boys decided to immortalise the cyber exploitation of human emotions with their 2002 single, E-mail:

The power of social engineering

As a virus, Melissa could have been eradicated pretty easily had it not used the vehicle of social engineering to spread its chaos. If people had employed a little common sense when the email landed in their mailbox, the virus wouldn’t have taken hold. You know, Derek, smelling a rat because there’s no way Deborah would have a crush on you. But alas, no. The Love Bug proved the point that the weakest part of any security system is its people.

How can you stay secure from modern-day Melissa viruses?

If you’ve got Geeks Protect, or Geeks Cloud, you’re already covered. We keep on top of the updates, have anti-virus deployed, and monitor proactively for threats, 24/7. But, if you don’t, here’s some basic advice to help you stay protected:

  1. Install a reputable antimalware app, like Windows Defender, and keep it up to date
  2. Don’t open emails or attachments from unfamiliar senders
  3. Block pop-ups in your internet browser
  4. If you use Internet Explorer, turn the SmartScreen Filter on
  5. Read and act on Smart Screen Filter notifications
  6. Stay on top of Windows updates
  7. Use a firewall
  8. Use your internet browser’s privacy settings
  9. Turn on your User Account Control (UAC)
  10. Clean out your internet cache and browsing history regularly
  11. Visit the Protect My Computer from Viruses support page on the Microsoft Windows Support website for more details on all of the above
  12. Contact Computer Geeks for more help and support