The Love Bug Virus

The “ILOVEYOU” computer virus that swept around the world last week surprising millions of unsuspecting users, seemed to steer clear of the surf industry.

A number of employees at companies such as O’Neill, Rusty, Billabong, Globe, and Reef received the e-mail, dubbed the “Love Bug,” but they had already been instructed to not open the VisualBasic script (.vbs) attachment by the time it had reached their desktops.

But apparently not all employees got the message. According to Reef Marketing Assistant Heather Woodbridge, two company employees at Reef headquarters in San Diego, California accidentally opened the e-mail, which then forwarded itself to all the names in the user’s address book. Woodbridge says that only a handful of digital images were lost — nothing too devastating.

O’Neill Marketing Manager Jody Budge says that a number of employees got the “ILOVEYOU” message at the company’s Santa Cruz, California office, but no one opened the file. Likewise for Rusty and Billabong in Irvine, California.

Woodbridge says Reef’s IT crew kept all company employees up to date on the Love Bug and its variants such as “JOKE,” “FUNNY,” and “virus ALERT,” so further damage was avoided. “We kept getting virus warnings for days like the Mother’s Day one that says ‘here’s a confirmation of your Mother’s Day order,'” says Woodbridge. “Our computer dude was all over it.”

Geography may have been the reason the surf industry avoided major electronic catastrophe. Since the majority of the industry is based in California — three hours behind New York — most had heard about the virus by the time they got to work early Thursday, May 4. “Some people heard about it “ILOVEYOU” on the way to work and were looking for it when they accessed their e-mails,” says Woodbridge.

The staff at Burton Snowboards in Burlington, Vermont was not as fortunate, however. According to Burton Public Relations Associate Scott Rivers, five unsuspecting employees opened the attached file early Thursday morning (May 4). “It “ILOVEYOU” just flooded our system,” says Rivers. “We were getting 200 e-mails an hour.” The virus forced the company to shut down its e-mail network for two days to give IS time to clean out the system and run the anti-virus software.

Rivers says the virus was just a nuisance and not a financial disaster: “It hit us, but not like you see in the news. We lost a few JPEGS and files, but we have backups.”

CNN reports the virus, which allegedly originated from a personal computer in Manila, Philippines, flogged U.S. government agencies, the Senate, and more than 100,000 servers in Europe.

The virus manipulates multimedia files like JPEGs and MP3s and then transmits itself through e-mail using Microsoft Outlook’s address book. “ILOVEYOU” and its many variants affect only Windows 98 and NT operating systems.

Software damage and lost commerce estimates are estimated at five- billion dollars, and could reach ten-billion dollars before the viruses are eradicated, CNN reports.