The ‘I Love You’ That Cost Billions

In 2000, when people were still naive enough to open email attachments from unknown sources, the ILOVEYOU virus (also known as “I Love You” or “Love Letter” virus) quickly spread and cost billions of dollars in damages and repairs.

It’s only Wednesday but it’s throwback time! Let’s go back to the year 2000, when people communicated online primarily via email. The virus originated in the Philippines, then spread to Hong Kong, to Europe and finally to the United States. The White House, Congress, the FBI and the Pentagon were all affected. The State Department was forced to disconnect its computer systems from the internet, according to a spokesman. The damages was estimated at US$ 5.5 Billion during its first week of spread alone. The final cost (including system repairs) was estimated at US$ 15 Billion.


I Love You Virus
“I Love You – and I won’t think you’re stupid for actually opening this attachment.” – is probably the long form of the message.  Image from


The author of the virus is alleged to be a Filipino by the name of Onel De Guzman. He became a short-lived ‘notorious’ celebrity. See his interviews at the New York Times here and at The Wall Street Journal here. Because of the “Love Bug”, Filipino programmers – and hackers as well – took the spotlight.

The “I Love You” virus has even been the subject of a Hollywood B-Movie (probably no A-list studio thought it was a great idea – and they’re right). Since the movie stars Briana Evigan (a Caucasian American actress) and Jericho Rosales (a Filpino actor), I presume that this movie was very “loosely” based on what actually happened. The movie was shown in 2011.


Subject: I Love You movie poster
Too bad this movie didn’t go as “viral” as its inspiration. Image from


What happened to the alleged virus author? According to this forum, he owns a cellphone repair shop in a Manila mall (2013 info by the way). During the height to the “love” bug, there were speculations that he was being recruited by Microsoft and other software giants. Apparently, that didn’t happen or the media would have written about it.

What prompted him to (allegedly) make the “I Love You” virus? According to reports, it was rejection – not of the love kind, but of the academic one. His thesis proposal, to create a program to steal username and passwords to “help” the poor access the internet for free, was rejected. Of course he was talking about passwords for card-based prepaid ISP’s back then. Today, he will probably be a ‘sensation’ if he proposes an app applicable to wifi passwords.


Rejected thesis proposal by alleged
With comments such as “this is illegal” and “We do not produce ‘BURGLARS'”, I guess the rejection was forthcoming. Image from sophosnews


See a copy of the complete thesis proposal here.

The virus spread through social engineering. Who wouldn’t be excited to receive a love letter from an anonymous admirer?

Of course this Valentine’s Day in the year 2015, the “I Love You” virus – and the method it employed – is no longer effective; otherwise, we would have had a more destructive “Penile Enlargement” or “Buy Cheap Viagra” virus.

I guess we will have to contend ourselves with viral #ILoveYou hashtags from Twitter and Instagram. Less vicious but probably just as annoying.



– Finance MD


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Finance, M.D.

Finance, M.D. is a practicing physician who dabbles in finance and investment. He has passed all three levels of the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exams, all in his first attempts.

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