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'ILOVEYOU' virus barely bites University

The "ILOVEYOU" bug bit hundreds of thousands of e-mail users around the world yesterday, wreaking havoc on business and government computer systems and prompting a campus-wide e-mail filter to keep infected messages from reaching Princeton users.

After learning of the new virus this morning, CIT sent warnings to administrators advising them not to open e-mails with "ILOVEYOU" subject lines. Dean of Undergraduate Students Kathleen Deignan also sent out an e-mail to students warning about the virus.


Nevertheless, some campus users were affected. "CIT is aware of only a few people who were fooled by the worm and actually opened it," CIT spokeswoman Rita Saltz said in an e-mail.

E-mail filter

To prevent the virus from spreading further, CIT implemented an e-mail filter that "quarantines" e-mails with "ILOVEYOU" in the subject, according to CIT administrator Donna Tatro. The filter was implemented at about 9:45 a.m. yesterday, she said.

Saltz said she believed the filter was a logical countermeasure against the virus. "The only negative side effects of the filter may be that e-mails sent warning people about the virus might be captured as well," she said.

She added, however, that she does not know how much longer the filter will be kept in place. "This may be the first part of a larger barrage, and I'm kind of holding my breath to see what happens tomorrow," Saltz said. "I think we're going to have a wait-and-see attitude and take [the filter] off as soon as possible, but not until we are totally aware of the dangers."

"It doesn't hurt to be prudent," she added. "What happens if a worse variation comes tomorrow?"

The virus, contained in messages with the subject "ILOVEYOU," is classified as an e-mail worm, according to the Symantec Antivirus Research Website. The bug replicates and spreads itself over e-mail and can corrupt JPEG and MP3 files on local and remote hard drives.


Saltz said the e-mail worm originated in Manila, Philippines, and was created by someone who identifies himself or herself online as "spyder."

According to Saltz, the virus infiltrates a user's Microsoft Outlook electronic address book and sends itself to the user's contacts. However, the virus may also spread using instant messaging systems such as ICQ, she said.

The virus is similar to but potentially more damaging than the Melissa virus, which infected almost one million users in March 1999. In addition to corrupting e-mail clients, the "love" bug can damage a range of different files and may also impact Internet Explorer.

While the University was largely able to contain the virus, other state government agencies and private businesses were not as lucky. Several employees of the New Jersey Department of Education were infected with the virus by early this morning.

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"We all use Outlook, and we all got the 'ILOVEYOU' e-mails. A few people opened the virus and then it just started proliferating," said Department of Education spokeswoman Faith Sarafin. "But we have a good technology department, and it only took a few hours to clean out the virus. I have stopped receiving the e-mails."

No users in the Princeton Borough government have been affected by the virus because only a few employees have e-mail. The Borough offices use an internal message system that is not connected to the Internet, according to a Borough administrator.