Love hurts, says FBI

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The FBI is treating seriously a new computer virus which appeared in the Far East, then rampaged throughout the world – creating mayhem in US government agencies including the State Department, the CIA and the Defence Department . Nick-named the Love Bug, the virus appears as a romantic electronic-mail letter entitled 'I love you'. Some users received the message with the title, ‘very funny joke’. 

When curious computer-users opened the message, their machine sent the infected file to every contact in their address list, overwhelming the systems. Anti-virus software was swiftly set up to block the vagrant message, but copycat viruses able to elude anti-virus software followed within hours, forcing companies to return to traditional forms of communication, such as phone or fax. 

It is estimated that some 1.27 million computer files were infected worldwide, most of them, predictably, in the US, causing hundreds of millions of dollars of damage. Thousands of companies were forced to shut their e-mail systems down to isolate the spread of the virus, which shut down the web site and the state lottery in Florida. 

The UK House of Commons, the Danish parliament and the Swiss government computer networks, all fell victim to the prank , which is believed to have originated in the Philippines. Insurers estimate that damage could run into tens of millions of pounds in the UK. In Asia, Dow Jones Newswires and the Asian Wall Street Journal were among the victims. 

People using Microsoft Outlook who receive the e-mail are advised not to open it, but to delete it immediately. Log off, switch off the computer, and contact your help desk. 

The virus, more accurately described as a worm, is much more serious than last year’s Melissa virus, as it overwrites audio and picture files, replacing them with its own code. The virus is reactivated if one of these files is subsequently opened. 

A computer expert described it as one of the nastiest he had ever seen, being programmed to delete some computer files, including music files and images, as well as raiding email addresses to multiply itself and send itself and other e-mails onwards to do untold damage. 

Internet music firm Peoplesound.com had to wipe all its files, and replace them from its back-up system, after technical staff realized the scale of the problem. 

An editor of Silicon.com, an online news network aimed at IT professionals, said that viruses usually hit the United States first, but this time Europe and Asia were the first to be infected. 

Cyber terrorism aimed at business has become relatively simple. Be aware – there may be more such messages in the pipeline. 

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