May 4, 2000 hit the world with what was then the biggest ever computer virus. It was important that this, along with all other email viruses, was right out in the open, visible to everyone. Each user could see the email in question and after a couple of days, every user knew it was a virus and everyone clicked it anyway. It ran up into the millions and got a ton of media coverage.
The LOVEBUG or VBS_LOVELETTER was a regular email-borne virus. What made it successful at the time was the fact that it used the best social engineering technique ever—using I love you as subject, knowing that everyone wanted to be loved.
The email attachment was a Visual Basic script (.VBS) file disguised by having a double extension. The full name of the file was actually LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU.TXT.vbs . Windows hid the second extension by default so it appeared to be a regular .TXT file. While not actually vital to the code process, this default hidden extension procedure enabled thousands of viruses in the early 21st century to proliferate.
VBS_LOVELETTER overwrote existing system files with copies of itself. It also transformed music, multimedia, and other files into relaunch points to avoid removal. Furthermore, it used the victim’s mailbox as a means to proliferate, as the sender would appear to be someone recipients knew.
Its success even resulted in reports of email systems having to be shut down just to get rid of the worm. Though VBS_LOVELETTER variants did not infect email servers nor did they infect email clients in victims’ systems, they did infect client systems. As such, VBS_LOVELETTER proved to doubters worldwide that viruses actually existed, as many still doubted the claims we made because almost all of the malware we saw then were “invisible.”
It has been a full decade since the “love bug” caught everyone, including security experts by surprise. After causing panic worldwide, this mass-mailing virus still serves as a constant reminder for security experts and malware authors that malware will constantly evolve and the number of samples increase.
These days, threats have morphed into tools used by criminals to steal money, data, and information. Security has evolved, too, but Trend Micro continues to block millions of threats everyday!