COMMENTARY

10 years later, the LoveBug still resonates

The ILOVEYOU worm, which appeared May 5, 2000, still ranks among the worst ever

May 5 marks the 10th anniversary of a landmark worm — in the computer security game, you can indeed have landmark worms — that helped set new standards for spreading malicious code across the Internet with the help of gullible humans.

The LoveBug, or the ILOVEYOU worm, began showing up in e-mail inboxes in the Philippines on May 5, 2000, and, spreading itself using victims’ contact lists, quickly contaminated Windows computers around the world, following the sun to Asia, Europe and the United States, clogging e-mail systems and overwriting files with copies of itself.

It was an early example of social engineering and exploited a Windows algorithm that allowed the e-mail to hide the final .vbs extension on the malicious code that executed on opening the attachment.

A pair of Filipino students were arrested in connection with the LoveBug, but were not prosecuted because there were no laws at that time that covered such activity. If any good came out of the outbreak, was the creation of laws that criminalized malicious activity such as creating and releasing malicious code.

Ten years later, the LoveBug still ranks high among the worst worms of all time (“all time” being limited to roughly the last 25 years). How high? One list, from the Web site List After List, ranks it second. Other such lists place it in similar position.

It’s worth noting that the days of big, high-profile worms such as the LoveBug and Melissa, have been dying out. Lists of the worst viruses and worms date back a few years, because writers of malicious code are moving toward more targeted exploits.

One exception, however, is the Conficker worm, which appeared in November 2008 and has proved to be remarkably persistent.

The list of the 10 Worst Computer Worms of All Time:

1. Morris Worm (also known as the Great Worm), 1988

2. ILOVEYOU (also known as VBS/Loveletter or Love Bug Worm), 2000

3. Nimda, 2001

4. Code Red, 2001

5. Melissa, 1999

6. MSBlast, 2003

7. Sobig, 2003

8. Storm Worm, 2007

9. Michelangelo, 1991

10. Jerusalem (also known as BlackBox), 1987

And because a worm can also be a virus, but not all viruses are worms, we thought we’d include a list of the 10 Worst Computer Viruses, from the Web site HowStuffWorks.

1. Storm Worm, 2007

2. Leap A/Oompa A, 2006

3. Sasser and Netsky, 2004

4. MyDoom, 2004

5. SQL Slammer/Saphire, 2003

6. Nimda, 2001

7. Code Red and Code Red II, 2001

8. The Klez, 2001

9. ILOVEYOU, 2000

10. Melissa, 1999

Even with a broader, more competitive field, the LoveBug makes the list. The mark of a champion.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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