The man behind the world’s first major computer virus outbreak has admitted his guilt, 20 years after his software infected millions of machines worldwide.
Filipino Onel de Guzman, now 44, says he unleashed the Love Bug computer worm to steal passwords so he could access the internet without paying.
He claims he never intended it to spread globally.
And he says he regrets the damage his code caused.
“I didn’t expect it would get to the US and Europe. I was surprised,” he said in an interview for Crime Dot Com, a forthcoming book on cyber-crime.
The Love Bug pandemic began on 4 May, 2000.
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.
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.
This led to estimates of damage and disruption running into billions of pounds.
In the UK, Parliament shut down its email network for several hours to protect itself, and even the Pentagon was reportedly affected.
The previous year, the Melissa bug is believed to have infected a million machines using similar tactics. However, Love Bug dwarfed previous outbreaks and exposed how vulnerable the world’s increasing internet connectivity was to attack.
Investigators traced the virus to an email address registered to an apartment in Manila, capital of the Philippines.