Police Nab Love Bug Suspect

The Philippines National Bureau of Investigations (NBI) moved in on the suspected authors of the “Love Bug” virus on Monday, raiding an apartment in Pandacan, a neighborhood of the capital Manila. A young man was arrested and led away, while a young woman is expected to present herself to authorities on Monday or Tuesday.

During the raid, the NBI seized computer equipment, disks and magazines.

Authorities still are not saying which of the pair they believe is responsible for the virus. Early speculation was that the culprit was a young male living in the Pandacan area, but the focus shifted to a young woman over the weekend.

No Hacking Laws

Within hours of the virus’ release, authorities had tracked it to the Philippines, where it was traced to the apartment of the suspects. There was a delay in getting a search warrant, however, because the country has no law covering computer crimes.

A warrant was eventually obtained under the Access Device Act, which governs use of codes, account numbers and passwords giving access to different types of devices. The maximum penalty under the law is 20 years in jail.

Authorities are concerned that during the delay, the suspects may have destroyed evidence that could tie them to the computer virus. There was no computer in the apartment at the time of the raid.

In addition to facing charges in the Philippines, the suspects may also be facing charges in the United States for the havoc wreaked by the virus, which took down corporate and government systems.

Investigation Continuing

Although Philippine and U.S. authorities are positive the virus came from the Philippines, not everyone is convinced.

A Swedish computer expert, who helped the FBI track the Melissa virus, believes the culprit is an 18 year-old German exchange student living in Australia. The Australian Federal Police say they have no hard evidence to back up that claim.

Rising Tide of Damages

Authorities are speculating that the most costly computer virus in history may have originated as a scam to get the author free Internet access. According to CNN, investigators are saying that in addition to replicating itself and destroying files, the virus also searched out login names and passwords and e-mailed them back to the Love Bug author.

According to authorities, the Love Bug computer virus was released through two Philippine e-mail accounts at a prepaid ISP. It quickly spread around the world via e-mail, and through the popular chat program ICQ.

The original Love Bug was transmitted via an attachment that purported to be a love letter. When the letter was opened, the virus destroyed files on the user’s computer and sent itself to everyone listed in the user’s e-mail address book.

The virus spawned copycats sent out under the names “joke” and “Mother’s Day.”

Escalating Costs

It may be a while for final costs of the Love Bug to be tallied, but the current damage estimates are already a staggering $2.6 billion (US$). That number could grow as Japanese workers return to work after a week off for Golden Week festivities, and damages in that country are added to the total.

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