At the start of the millennium, a different virus has once baffled the world. With just an email, the I Love You virus has spread immediately, crashing computers, deleting files, and causing about $10 billion of damage in a glance.
On May 4, 2000, people worldwide received emails with "ILOVEYOU" on the subject. The message read: "kindly check the attached LOVELETTER coming from me."
Unsuspecting victims then opened the text file. Unfortunately, it was "an executable program" that allowed the virus to take control. It is a worm that replicated itself and sent copies of itself to all in the victim's email address book.
The cycle kept on, recipients continued to open the attachment and dispersed it further. Soon after, office email servers were clogged as thousands of love letters went back and forth.
"This wasn't something that people were used to as a concept, they didn't realize that email could be so dangerous," Michael Gazeley told CNN as he recounted his experiences when the virus broke out. Gazely is a part-owner of the information security firm, Network Box, located in HongKong.
It was worse than just a chain letter. The ILOVEYOU virus soon destroyed the victim's hard drive and scrubbed numerous files.
On May 11, international media flew to the Philippines to cover the arrest of a 23-year old student who is said to have coded the ILOVEYOU virus.
Onel de Guzman dabbed sweat on his face as journalists raised their question about how he was able to put up such a destructive program. His lawyer Rolando Quimbo claimed that de Guzman was not even aware of whether those acts alleged against him "were indeed done by him".
"So if you ask me whether or not he was aware of the consequences, I would say that he is not aware," Atty. Quimbo said.
No hard drive or files were confiscated from De Guzman's house during the arrest. There was just some computer equipment, magazines, and accessories.
De Guzman was accused of the creation and dissemination of "the first truly global computer virus." ILOVEYOU virus paralyzed businesses and government agencies over the world. It has even affected the Pentagon and the British Parliament. The total damages were estimated up to $10 billion.
Two decades after the LoveBug
The ILOVEYOU virus remains one extremely destructive malware in history. People followed how authorities tracked the creator of the virus as it swept the front pages.
Although the charges against de Guzman were dropped due to insufficient evidence, this incident called the attention of "a largely complacent public" to become vigilant against the dangers of cyber-attacks.
It also showed the vulnerabilities that still exist even after 20 years since the love bug came out.
"What's frightening is that 20 years after, there are still plenty of organizations who don't take this seriously until they are hit," said Gazeley adding that people still do not plan.
National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC) Director Michael Vatis said it is still possible for people to fall to the same trap even with the advanced technologies available now.
"Humans are always the weak link," Vatis said. "It's almost always easier to exploit a human through some social engineering gambit than it is to crack, you know, some technological defensive measure."
Vatis then compared the situation to people who avoid getting annual flu jabs, which does not concern the society until a lot of people get sick.
Coincidentally, the world is now struck by another virus that affected 3,362,778 and killed 239,227 across the globe. There is still no approved cure or vaccine against the coronavirus, which has crippled the economy and social activity worldwide.