Sat, May 06, 2000 - Page 1 News List

Taiwan shakes off 'love bug'

By Dan Nystedt  /  STAFF REPORTER

A computer user reads a program code attached to an e-mail dubbed the "Love Bug" yesterday. The e-mail caused havoc with computer systems worldwide Thursday, shutting down e-mail servers at major companies and penetrating the Pentagon and Britain's parliament. The new virus originates in an e-mail entitled "ILOVE YOU" and reading: "kindly check the attached LOVELETTER coming from me."

PHOTO: REUTERS

Despite destroying thousands of computer data systems around the world yesterday, the "ILOVEYOU" virus seems to have spared Taiwan -- so far.

Although US officials estimate damage caused by the virus in North America alone may exceed US$1 billion, Tomorrow Times reported yesterday that just 14 companies in Taiwan have experienced virus-related damage so far. Computer hardware companies and securities firms appear to have been the hardest hit.

Hu Ching-hao (胡錦濤), executive secretary at the nation's Computer Emergency Response Team, said it was too early to tell exactly what impact the virus has had in Taiwan.

"We haven't received any incident reports yet, so it [the damage] is not yet clear," Hu said. "But so far, it doesn't appear too serious," he said, adding that calls to the response team have been "light."

State-run Chunghwa Telecom (中華電信), the nation's largest Internet service provider, also reported few problems yesterday. A company official was quoted as saying that none of its 1.7 million to 1.8 million customers have called to ask for help combatting the virus.

Company officials at Trend Micro, a global anti-virus software developer, said that judging by the composition of "ILOVEYOU," it could have a major impact on the nation.

"We don't have any concrete figures yet, but this is big," said Trend Micro engineer Axl Yen. By yesterday Trend Micro had received more than 100 calls from companies and end-users whose computers had been hit by the virus.

Yen said that the method in which "ILOVEYOU" spreads makes it a fast moving and destructive virus. The virus travels by looking up e-mail addresses stored in a host computer, then sending out as many as 300 e-mails to people from that database.

People receiving the e-mail, according to Yen, would then recognize the sender and see, "ILOVEYOU" in the subject box. The virus is activated when users open the file attached to the message.

Yen warned users who receive the "ILOVEYOU" e-mail to delete it immediately. If inadvertently opened, the virus will start sending out new e-mail messages and erase certain image and music files stored on the computer.

According to Pro QC Systems industry analyst Russ McClay, Taiwan may have been pardoned by lady luck due to its position in world time zones. As the e-mail plague spread with the opening of world markets, "ILOVEYOU" circled the globe and only hit Taiwan after the start of the local workday.

He said it seems to have moved from the Philippines to Hong Kong, then westward around the globe to Europe. As the sun rose in Europe and people checked their e-mail, the virus struck hard. By the time the workday arrived in Taiwan, people already knew what the virus was and how to handle it.

"I think it was so well publicized that it didn't hit hard [in Taiwan]," McClay said. "News got out so fast, it was on the front page of all the newspapers." Media reports are warning the public to beware of copycat viruses that operate in the same manner as "ILOVEYOU," but under different names. New aliases include, "Very Funny," "Susitikim," "fwd:joke" and even "ILOVEYOU anti-virus software."

McClay warned that all e-mail attachments should be scrutinized before downloading.

Computer users who have experienced the "ILOVEYOU" virus' "kiss of death" can go to www.trend.com.tw (Chinese) or www.trend.com (English) for free software that helps systems lose that "lovin' feeling."Also see Editorial inside

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