Thursday May 4 1:14 PM ET
New 'Love Bug' Computer Virus Sweeps World
By Derek Caney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Love stinks -- particularly when it comes in the form of an electronic mail virus that has been slowing computers and shutting down e-mail systems around the world, from the British Parliament to the U.S. Pentagon.

Companies across Europe, North America, Asia and Australia were hit on Thursday by the so-called ``Love Bug'' virus, raising fears of a repeat of the Melissa virus that wreaked havoc in the United States last year.

The virus appears to have been sent by someone operating under the pseudonym ``Spyder,'' citing a print-out of the virus program, said Britain's Consumers' Association.

A Pentagon office that compiles news clipping sent he ''ILOVEYOU'' message to its mailing, including U.S. security agencies like the Central Intelligence Agency, Civil Air Patrol, General Accounting Office, military commands and the FBI-led National Infrastructure Protection Center.

White House spokesman Jake Siewert said so far the virus has not gotten through the White House system.

``It hasn't affected operations at the White House,'' he said. ``There have been some reports around the government about it. The White House has taken some measures to secure its system ... our cybersecurity people are on top of it.''

The British Parliament was also said to be affected, with London's House of Commons shutting down its e-mail system for about two hours on Thursday to safeguard against the virus.

Ford Motor Co. (NYSE:F - news) said it shut down its e-mail system, serving more than 100,000 employees worldwide, this morning after the virus infiltrated its system in Europe.

``The virus was first noticed in Europe,'' said Ford spokeswoman Kathleen Vokes. ``When it was determined it could be a serious virus, the decision was made to shut down all servers supporting e-mail within Ford to prevent its spread. Once the virus is eradicated, we will bring the servers back up.''

Internal e-mail systems at many of the world's largest companies and organizations have been hit by the virus, ranging from media companies to agricultural companies to technology companies to public utilities.

``We've already gotten about 50 reports on the virus, which is pretty significant for this time of day,'' said Bill Pollak, a spokesman for the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT), a Defense Department-funded computer security project at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Penn.

The virus comes in an e-mail that says ``ILOVEYOU'' in the subject line and an attachment, which when opened using Microsoft Outlook software sends the virus to the e-mail addresses stored within the software, researchers say.

Once the virus infects the computer it can destroy certain files not only on the user's own hard drive, but also other files on networks that the user is connected to.

``What makes this virus effective is that it can spread to other computers within the network,'' said David Chess, a researcher with International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM - news). in Armonk, N.Y.

``It can slow down e-mail systems, crash computer networks and potentially destroy important files.''

The virus is said to overwrite picture and music files from local and network drives.

The ``love bug'' parallels a similar virus attack in 1999 known as Melissa, which was also spread through Microsoft Outlook's address book and produced one of the most widespread infections ever, although damage to individual computers was limited.

U.S. media conglomerate Time Warner Inc. (NYSE:TWX - news) said its computers had been affected. ``It's all over our system,'' said a staff member in its public relations department in New York.

The world's largest wireless telecommunications firm, Vodafone AirTouch Plc (NYSE:VOD - news), shut down its internal e-mail system, which prevented its internal staff from sending and receiving e-mail but has not had any impact on customer records or billing.

Archer Daniels Midland Co., (NYSE:ADM - news) a Decatur, Ill.-based international grain and food company with more than 500 grain elevators and 350 processing plants worldwide was affected by the virus.

``We did get hit this morning. We have implemented corrective fixes such as temporarily shutting a few of our e-mail servers down,'' said Karla Miller, spokeswoman for Archer Daniels Midland Co. ``There were no widespread outages.''

Newark, N.J.-based Public Service Enterprise Group Inc. (NYSE:PEG - news) shut down its e-mail shortly after 9 a.m. to prevent dissemination of the virus, according to spokesman Paul Rosengren. PSEG is the parent company of Public Service Electric & Gas Co. -- PSE&G -- New Jersey's largest utility.

IBM's Chess said messages within the e-mail indicate the virus originated in Manila, Philippines. ``But really, there's no way to tell for sure, where it came from,'' he said.

Those infected appear to be limited to users of Microsoft Outlook, and only if the user were to open the accompanying attachment.

Microsoft Corp. (NasdaqNM:MSFT - news) were not immediately available for comment.

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