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Valentine's Could See Return of Love Bug E-mail Virus

February 13, 2001

Don't feel overly-flattered should you get love messages from unknown admirers come Wednesday when the world celebrates the day set aside for lovers.

Experts say the day may also be perfect for the resurrection of the "I Love You" or "Love Bug" e-mail virus that struck millions of computers last year.

"Valentine's Day would be the perfect time for I Love You or a variant to re-appear on the Internet," said Nick Hawkins, vice president of MessageLabs Asia Pacific, an international firm that specializes in e-mail filtering.

"At this time of the year, I would be very hesitant to open anything (to do with Valentine's Day)," said Hawkins.

Hawkins said Hong Kong could be particularly prone to such attacks.

"We do see a number of viruses that originate from here," he told Reuters.

Another virus already doing the rounds and spreading in Hong Kong in recent days promises a photograph of glamorous Russian tennis star Anna Kournikova.

The virus, first discovered in August, uses a so-called worm to spread in the same manner as the Love Bug.

The subject line on the Kournikova virus e-mail reads: "Here you have,;o)". The body of the e-mail says "Hi: Check This!"

Unlike the Love Bug, experts say it is not data destructive but is damaging because it can clog up e-mail systems and cause servers to crash. The Love Bug infected an estimated 15 million computers in May of last year and brought servers around the world to a complete standstill.

The bug appears in the form of an e-mail that comes with an attachment.

Once the attachment is opened, the virus infects the users computer and sends itself to every name in the users address book.

Hawkins said that even nearly a year after the Love Bug first struck, the virus has remained virulent and that tens of thousands of attacks are still being recorded each month.

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