Ah, Valentines Day. A day to remember those high school holidays of watching the popular girls get carnations and candy while you sat around with your dorky clothes and ... Oh, sorry, I lost my head there for a minute.
Sad but true: This Valentines Day made me think of one love letter I was glad I didnt receive—or at least click through.
Remember the I Love You virus? It wended its way through e-mail and into the hearts of PCs like some kind of modern-day Valentino. Its conquests were many, and it left many broken hearts—and broken IT pros—in its path.
The I Love You worm was a VBScript program that surfaced in 2000. It spread in a variety of ways, including through Windows file sharing, IRC (Internet Relay Chat) and Usenet. But the main conveyer was e-mail—namely, Microsoft Outlook.
It was diabolical, really: When the worm executed—an action initiated by clicking on an e-mail attachment—it would send copies of itself using entries in Outlook address books.
So, youd get an e-mail from someone you "knew" with the subject line of "ILOVEYOU," and the body of the message would read something like, "Kindly check the attached LOVELETTER coming from me."
Lots of people did, and lots of people perpetuated what became a vicious and rapidly growing circle. By some estimates, millions of computers were infected by the worm, and billions of dollars were spent cleaning up from it.
So, could it happen today?
Todays users are hopefully more savvy about e-mail attachments. Most people know not to open an attachment they arent expecting, even if the sender seems to be someone they know. And many companies dont allow attachments from external sources—period.
But not all users have learned their lesson, and, as my colleague Jim Rapoza pointed out to me today in an e-mail exchange (sans attachments), "Outlook and Internet Explorer have been buttoned up enough now that a virus couldnt spread in the exact same way that I Love You did. But, with people still dumb enough to open any attachment in strange e-mails, viruses dont need to be that sophisticated to spread effectively."
I guess love really is blind. Deb Donston can be reached at email@example.com.
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