New, more Dangerous 'Love' Virus may have Come from Israel

Published May 21st, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Computer security experts suspect that a new PC virus, "NewLove.vbs," may have originated in Israel, but the FBI is investigating the possibility that the bug was first run in the United States, according to Haaretz Sunday. 

Israeli sources were quoted by the daily as saying that one Israeli high-tech firm, which was hit by the original "love" virus, is running an internal investigation to find whether an employee is responsible for writing and distributing the damaging program. 

Initial reports of the new epidemic arrived at the offices of Network Associates Israel, a Symantec company, on Thursday evening, said Haaretz, adding that warnings were then sent worldwide of the virus, which travels through the e-mail service of Outlook and Outlook Express, a Microsoft program. This is the same method used for the distribution of the original love virus, which affected thousands of computers throughout the world earlier this month. 

However the similarities between the two programs seem to end there. The new virus is much more selective, attacking hundreds rather than thousands of users, but much more lethal. On the scale of 1 to 10, used by computer security experts to measure the lethality of such programs, the original love virus ranks a 5. NewLove.vbs was described by Simon Perry, vice-president for security at Computer Associates, as "the nightmare version of the original love virus because it can destroy a computer in 20 seconds." 

In a recent visit to Israel, Perry had foreshadowed a worse scenario to the original love bug: "I am afraid to think what would happen if the virus reaches the rank of nine or 10 [in complexity], when it will be able to distribute itself in a similar fashion and damage personal computers," he said. 

NewLove.vbs attaches itself to every file on the computer drive and turns it blank. That is in stark contrast to the previous bug, which only attacked selected multimedia files. When the virus is done with the hard drive it moves on to the drives of other computers attached to its original victim. Making matters worse for anti-virus programs, the bug mutates, adding lines of code and making countering it more difficult. This ability has led anti-virus program companies to rank NewLove as most dangerous.  

Nonetheless there are some signs of optimism. At Network Associates, according to the paper. It said the company now believes that the bug is not as dangerous as originally thought and eventually "dies out because it becomes too fat [too many lines of code]." Experts in the United States expressed hope that if the damage does not prove to be too severe by Monday, we can all breath easier... until the next time – Albawaba.com 

 

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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