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BizReport : Email Marketing : May 05, 2010

Lovebug Virus: 10 years later all is well. Right?

Ten years ago the Lovebug virus infiltrated computers around the world throwing consumers - and sometimes government offices - into turmoil. Ten years later many consumers think viruses are a thing of the past and that any anti-virus software will protect them. The truth? Consumers, businesses and brands are still very susceptible to viruses and malware because many attacks go undetected until it's too late.

by Kristina Knight

Ten years ago the Lovebug virus, a seemingly innocuous email message stating someone loved you, infiltrated the cyber-space and nothing has been the same since. I had the chance to chat with Paul Fletcher, who identified the Lovebug virus ten years ago. Paul is the chief software architect with Symantic Hosted Services. We talked about how things have - and haven't - changed in the virus space.

Kristina: First off, Lovebug. What was it like to identify a virus of that breadth?

Paul: It started off quite uneventfully. We stopped the first copy just after midnight based on bad characteristics or behavior we'd seen in [previous] viruses. By 9 AM we had stopped ten times the number of viruses we usually stopped in a full day.

Kristina: What have IT pros like you learned about virus distribution in the past ten years?

Paul: Every virus or worm out there uses the same ideas that past viruses and worms have used. Things like the Lovebug were easy to stop because the plan was just to get them to spread. Today, malware doesn't want to be detected. Some viruses are still simply there to be distributed or form botnets. The really serious stuff, though, targets a specific group of people or a government because if even one worm gets through it can stay on the infected computer, stealing data or information, for months or years.

Kristina: Do you see companies as more secure now than ten years ago?

Paul: Companies know they have to have email security now, but the new threats are the issue. Few companies at the moment have full protection and that is a concern. They can block the more obvious viruses, but they are missing the more deviant viruses and worms which can be really harmful. From the point of view of malware, you need a good solution for downloading web content. A cloud-based protection system may help the company detect malware or keep malware away more easily.

Kristina: What do companies need to prepare for now?

I think these covert attacks are growing all the time. Although we see a lot of it, each attack is very small and so it doesn't get on the public radar. Also, cyber-terrorism is a big problem. We haven't seen a true cyber-terror attack at this point so we don't know what it will look like or what problems it will cause. You have to remember that the Lovebug, small as it was, took down several government offices and agencies and [those agencies] weren't targets. The people who created Lovebug just wanted to see how far it would go. So, we just don't know what could happen [in a cyber-terror attack].

Tags: cyber attacks, email virus, Lovebug virus, malware, MessageLabs, Paul Fletcher, spam, virus protection

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