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Authorities seek to question pair in "Love Bug' attack

May 11, 2000
Web posted at: 4:38 p.m. HKT (0838 GMT)

In this story:

Virus causes billions in damage

College said thesis unethical

Investigators find additional link


MANILA, Philippines -- A computer school dropout and his sister were summoned by Philippine authorities to answer questions Thursday about their possible roles in last week's "ILOVEYOU" computer virus attack.

But Rolando Quimbo, the lawyer representing the pair, said they had not received the summons, and therefore would not appear for the questioning. They were asked to appear before 2 p.m. (0600 GMT). Quimbo said they would meet reporters later Thursday.

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Philippine National Bureau of Investigation agents confirmed the computer school dropout was 22-year-old Onel de Guzman, who had been a student at AMA Computer College in Manila. His sister, Irene, had earlier promised to answer investigators' questions.

"I don't know if they will come, but we have issued the summons," an NBI agent, speaking on condition of anonymity, said.

Agents also said Onel de Guzman was not considered a suspect, but that they wanted to check his past. AMA officials confirmed Wednesday that Onel de Guzman had submitted a thesis to his instructor outlining a program similar to the virus.

Virus causes billions in damage

The "Love Bug" swept around the world last week with surprising speed, as millions of unsuspecting victims opened the e-mail, which had the subject line "ILOVEYOU" and often came from someone known to the user.

The virus devastated e-mail programs, and damage from the bug and its variants has been estimated at $7 billion, and could reach $10 billion.

When activated, the virus destroyed files, replicated itself, accessed a program that searched for login names and passwords, and then mailed them back to the bug's author.

Authorities said Irene de Guzman owned the apartment that was searched by Philippine police on Monday as they tried to locate the computer that caused the havoc.

During their search, investigators seized a box with 17 items, including computer magazines, telephones, diskettes, wires and cassette tapes. However, they did not find the computer they believe had been used to originate the virus.

Authorities had traced both the computer and a telephone number used in the virus attack to the apartment. They noted, however, that anyone who had access to the apartment and the computer could have created the virus.

College said thesis unethical

An AMA official said that Onel de Guzman had excelled in his computer courses, but dropped out after his thesis proposal was rejected as unethical. The school said it has not heard from him since.

Philippine authorities turned their investigation on the computer school after receiving 10 coded names, embedded in the "ILOVEYOU" virus, from U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation agents.

School officials determined the virus was similar to Onel de Guzman's thesis, called E:mail Password Sender Trojan, which was designed to obtain Windows passwords, and retrieve Internet accounts from victims' computers.

"We all know that when we connect to the Internet, we spend more time for surfing and reading e-mail only, so when we are spending time we spend a lot of money to pay the accounts for only using a couple of hours," Onel de Guzman's proposal read.

Internet use is billed by the hour in the Philippines, where time can cost as much as 100 pesos, or about US$2 to $3, per hour. By contrast, many users in the United States and Europe have access to flat-rate or "free," ad-supported Internet access plans.

"Use (this program) to steal and retrieve Internet accounts of the victim's computer," Onel de Guzman wrote in his thesis proposal.

Investigators find additional link

Meanwhile, a link between Onel de Guzman and another AMA student was discovered -- the resume of Michael I. Buen contained in the coding of a Microsoft Word macro virus.

The Buen virus contains the acknowledgement: "I'm thanking 'Byron' for sharing his computer and ideas, book and time." "Byron," whose identity was not immediately known, is mentioned in the resume portion, under "Character references." The next character reference is "Onel de Guzman."

On Monday, Philippine authorities detained Irene de Guzman's boyfriend, Reomel Ramones, but later released him. He is expected to answer charges on May 19. He said he had been mistaken for Onel de Guzman.

Investigators have not ruled out the possibility that more people may have helped spread the virus. NBI agents had also said the attack may have been caused by pranksters who did not realize the potential consequences.

CNN Interactive Technology Editor D. Ian Hopper and Reuters contributed to this report.

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May 9, 2000
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