While it can be said that many users have experienced some form of computer virus which has simply been: “a mild inconvenience, requiring a cleanup and then installing… [an] antivirus program, [other viruses] have caused tremendous harm, amounting to billions of dollars and disrupting critical real life infrastructure” (Jamaluddin, n.d.). The purpose of this paper is to discuss the I Love You computer hoax virus, which I find fascinating. Throughout the course of the paper, I talk about the details of the hoax, as well as how the internet was used to spread it by using various distribution methods. I also share the reasons as to why I feel that people were willing to believe in it.
The famous computer virus, I Love You, is regarded as one of the most deadly and successful viruses of all time. Started in the Philippines, it generated mayhem in computer systems right across the globe, and ended up creating around $10 billion in damages. In fact, it is thought that ten percent of the world’s computers which were linked up to the internet, were hit by the infection. Furthermore, this virus was so powerful that big corporations and governments removed their online mailing system in order tot avoid infection (Jamaluddin, n.d.).
In the year 2000, on and after May 5th, millions of Windows PCs began sending out the same email message. This email had a subject line and an attachment which was “I Love You” and “Love-Letter-For-Youxt.vbs” respectively. The problem with the file extension was that many users thought that it was a standard text file. This is because, as it was a form of interpreted file (a ‘VBS’), it was normally hidden by default on the computers of that period. When the user opened the attachment, it automatically triggered off the Visual Basic script. This meant that damage to the local computer was generated by the worm. It overwrote random files such as audio files, image files, and office files; and after doing the same thing to MP3 files, it hide there.
This gave it the power to send a copy of itself to every address that the user had on their Microsoft Outlook address list. In addition to this, ironically, the worm downloaded the Barok trojan, and then changed its name to “WIN-BUGSFIX.EXE”. The worm also looked through connected drives, and then installed extensions in their place by using copies of itself. Moreover, it simultaneously appended the additional VBS file extension. The installed extensions generated by the virus included: MP3, MP2, HTA, DOC, SCT, WSH, CSS, JSE, JS, VBE, VBS, JPEG, and JPG. MP3s as well as other files that were sound related were hidden as opposed to being overwritten. As the worm was in VBS, it enabled users to adjust the virus. For example, it would not be difficult for them to adjust it to supersede crucial files within the system, and then destruct it. This action meant that many variations of the virus were scattered all over the internet, and they all generated diverse kinds of damage (Symantix, n.d., Computer Hope, n.d.).
The worm also took full advantage of social engineering in order to lure users into opening up the attachment. This guaranteed continual multiplication. I can fully understand why people would want to open this up – they may have been naturally inquisitive, or even hopeful that the attachment was from someone they knew, or a person of the opposite who they had recently met and liked. Furthermore, as the virus utilized mailing lists to reach its targets, those who opened the messages often thought that they were sent from someone they knew, and to that end, they thought they were safe.