A harsh lesson in love

More than two-thirds of Australian businesses were hit with last week's "Love Bug", but e-commerce security executive Steve Crutchfield believes there may be a valuable lesson amid the mayhem.

He said the virus would act as a catalyst to coerce businesses into implementing internet security technologies and procedural policies -- initiatives he believes should have been in place long ago.

The virus, which began its rampage on an estimated 70 per cent of Australian corporations last Thursday night, is automatically distributed via the recipient's address book in Microsoft Outlook. It is carried as an email attachment with "ILOVEYOU" in the subject line; however, it may also appear in an email with the subject line "Fwd: Joke". The variant attachment is labelled "Very Funny.vbs".

Once activated, the virus sends the infected email to all addresses listed on the recipient's inbox, in addition to replacing some files located across all drives and directories. Additionally, it is believed that PCs operating on Microsoft's Windows 2000 are infected by the virus, but cannot spread it.

Users receiving such emails are advised to delete it without opening or launching the attachment.

Analysts have dubbed the virus "Melissa on steroids", because it has affected more than 90 per cent of US corporations, compared to the 20 per cent affected by the Melissa virus last year.

Global repair bill estimates grew rapidly from $1 billion to $17 billion over the weekend, but Crutchfield expects the damage done to corporations will only fall between $5 billion and $10 billion worldwide.

Local companies hit by the virus include the CSIRO, Gateway, Compuware and Goldman Sachs. Authorities have traced the source of the bug to the Philippines, where a woman has been apprehended regarding possible involvement in the spread of the virus.

However, it is also believed an untraced German student based in Australia, referred to in cyberspace as "Michael", may have created the dastardly program.

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