20 Years ago, the world’s first major computer virus outbreak had infected millions of computers worldwide. The man behind the virus outbreak has finally admitted his guilt after 20 years.
The Love Bug pandemic began on 4 May’ 2000 and it unleashed havoc on internet. Within 24 hours, it was causing major problems across the globe, reportedly infecting 45 million machines. It also overwhelmed organisations' email systems, and some IT managers disconnected parts of their infrastructure to prevent infection.
Victims received an email attachment entitled LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU. It contained malicious code that would overwrite files, steal passwords, and automatically send copies of itself to all contacts in the victim's Microsoft Outlook address book.
This led to estimates of damage and disruption running into billions of pounds.
Government agencies and parliaments of several countries shut down its email network for several hours to protect itself, and even the Pentagon was reportedly affected. Love Bug dwarfed previous outbreaks and exposed how vulnerable the world's increasing internet connectivity was to such attacks.
Investigators traced the virus to an email address registered to an apartment in Manila, capital of the Philippines.
The occupant's brother was Onel de Guzman, a computer science student at the city's AMA Computer College. He was a member of an underground hacking group called Grammersoft and quickly became the lead suspect in a police investigation.
At the time, the Philippines had no law covering computer hacking, and neither de Guzman nor anyone else was ever prosecuted.
After 20 years a BBC reporter traced Onel de Guzman the creator of Love Bug and found he is running a mobile phone repair shop in the Quiapo district of Manila.
He admitted having created Love Bug, which he said was a revamped version of an earlier virus he had coded in order to steal internet access passwords.
In the era of dial-up internet, such passwords were needed to get online, and de Guzman says he could not afford to pay for one.
He claims he initially sent the virus only to Philippine victims, with whom he communicated in chat rooms, because he only wanted to steal internet access passwords that worked in his local area.
However, in spring 2000 he tweaked the code, adding an auto-spreading feature that would send copies of the virus to victims' Outlook contacts, using a flaw in Microsoft's Windows 95 operating system. He also created a title for the email attachment that would have global appeal, tempting people across the world to open it.
"I figured out that many people want a boyfriend, they want each other, they want love, so I called it that," he said to the reporter.
No one had imagined receiving a virus with such a catchy subject line.