This man created ‘I Love You’ virus and infected 50 million computers

Malware has become such a common problem that sometimes little attention is paid to the people behind these developments, although sometimes computer virus creators gain some notoriety. According to experts from a cyber security consulting company, the head of the first major malware outbreak has acknowledged his guilt; two decades after its creation infected millions of computer computers worldwide.

Onel De Guzman, a 44-year-old Filipino citizen, claims to be the creator of “Love Bug”, a computer virus capable of extracting passwords to be able to access the Internet without paying. The creator of the malware has apologized for the problems it caused, stating that his intention was never for this problem to be deployed globally. “I never imagined this would go to places like the United States or Europe,” says De Guzman.

The problem began in May 2000, when multiple users received an email with an attachment called “LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOY”. This file contained malicious code to overwrite files, extract passwords and send copies of itself to all victim contacts stored in your Outlook account.

Outlook inbox with the malicious email

Specialists from a cyber security consulting company mention that enterprise email systems were also severely affected by the virus, so some system administrators decided to disconnect parts of their IT infrastructure to prevent attacks, costing affected companies millions of dollars.  

After thousands of massive infections and service interruptions, Philippine authorities began an investigation that led them to an email address registered in a department in Manila city; the occupier of the place was the brother of Onel De Guzman, who was then a computer science’s student at a local high school.

Shortly thereafter, Philippine authorities revealed that De Guzman was a member of a hacker group known as Grammersoft, making him the prime suspect in the incident. Finally, De Guzman acknowledged his involvement in the development of the virus; however, the Philippines did not yet have legislation regarding computer intrusions, so no one was subjected to legal process.

After the chaos generated by the Love Bug, De Guzman disappeared from the map. Some claimed that he had moved to the United States or Germany, or that he had even been recruited by Microsoft.  Rumors were eventually dispelled by a journalist specializing in hacking, who found De Guzman in a shopping mall. In an interview, the former student and hacker acknowledged creating the Love Bug, ensuring that it was an updated version of an old malware for the theft of Internet passwords, mentioned experts from a cyber security consulting company.   

“A lot of people are looking for a couple, so I thought that would be a good title for email,” De Guzman says. In addition, he claims that after a short time of keeping a low profile, he decided to return to the world of computer science, although he did not return to college. Now he runs a small business and wants to forget the havoc he caused: “My friends sometimes see my picture on the Internet, I don’t want to see that,” concludes De Guzman.

For further reports on vulnerabilities, exploits, malware variants and computer security risks you can access the website of the International Institute of Cyber Security (IICS), as well as the official platforms of technology companies.