University computer users who use the Microsoft Outlook e-mail program might have found a curious message Thursday morning titled “ILOVEYOU.”
But the message was not a late Valentine.
Instead, it was a computer virus, capable of infiltrating the software’s address books, clogging computer servers and deleting files.
The virus reportedly started in Asia on Wednesday. Although it resembled last April’s “Melissa” virus by replicating itself in address books to spread between computers, the similarities stopped there.
“ILOVEYOU” spreads much faster than “Melissa” and can travel through chat lines. The tainted e-mail message, which appears as “ILOVEYOU” on the subject line, prompts users to “check the attached love letter.”
Phil Kachelmyer, assistant director of the University’s Academic and Distributed Computing Services, said computer users didn’t have to open the attachment to spread the virus. They need only click on the subject line, which opens the message in Outlook’s preview window and sends the virus cascading through their hard drives.
Kachelmyer advised University students and faculty using the affected software to leave any subject line titled “ILOVEYOU” alone and go directly to www.umn.edu/adcs, where they can download a free patch. Macintosh users were unaffected, he said.
Kachelmyer said 2,000 to 4,000 University computer users stood at risk. The University took steps early Thursday morning to stop the spread of the virus.
Tom Murray, a network analyst at Networking and Telecommunications Services, said that by afternoon the damage had already been done.
“It’s pretty insidious,” Murray said.
“ILOVEYOU” struck government and business e-mail systems worldwide, including U.S. Congress members, the British parliament and Minneapolis computer systems.
John Ladwig, security architect with the telecommunications service department, said he began receiving phone calls about the virus early in the morning. By 9:30 a.m. someone in his department had already detected it.
Ladwig said the computing services department combatted the virus by slowing incoming e-mail from outside the University.
Though he would not speculate about how many University users were affected by the worm, he said one departmental computer server with several hundred users received hundreds of copies of the worm.
Ladwig advised computer users to update their anti-virus software regularly.
Kachelmyer said the virus does not affect Outlook Express, the free version of Microsoft Outlook.
Robert Koch covers police and courts and welcomes comments at [email protected]