Thousands of organisations and companies took their email systems offline yesterday after being attacked by a new virus dubbed the Love Bug - so called because it is carried by an email message headed "ILOVEYOU" [WAMN, 4-May-99]. The full extent of the problem is not yet clear, but within the first few hours of the attack anti-virus software specialists reported thousands of SOS calls from affected businesses.

When the email attachment is opened, the bug seeks out the recipient’s email address book and sends itself to everyone listed, mirroring last year’s notorious Melissa virus. The latest virus has wrought even greater havoc than Melissa due to its exponential spread, overloading corporate email systems and causing them to crash. Users are advised to immediately delete any messages headed "I love you".

Among the email systems shut-down by the bug – mostly as a self-protective measure – were online retailer, the UK's House of Commons, the White House, the Pentagon and numerous multinational businesses.

According to MessageLabs, a virus control service for internet service providers, Microsoft's widely used email program Outlook is particularly vulnerable because the Love Bug uses the same programming language as Outlook.

Sourced from: Financial Times