The author of the computer code, which caused billions of dollars in losses in the early 2000s, now leads a modest and discreet life in Manila, according to the BBC.
The original goal of the creator of the “I Love You” virus was not to create dangerous malware, but simply to surf the Internet for free. NICOLAS SIX / QUENTIN HUGON / “THE WORLD”
On May 4, 2000, the “I Love You” virus spread to the four corners of the world in a dazzling fashion. Within a few days, it hit the computer systems of the Pentagon, the CIA, and large corporations such as L’Oréal, Siemens and Nestlé. This small piece of code infected tens of millions of computers, making it one of the most virulent viruses in history.
ILOVEYOU reveals the vulnerability of the Internet
Its author was identified a few days later: a 24-year-old Filipino named Onel de Guzman. He will not be worried because at that time, the law of his country does not provide for this type of offence. Twenty years after the events, a British journalist tracked him down in the capital, Manila, and questioned him about his motives in a report that appeared on 4 May on the BBC news website.
If the author of the “I Love You” virus is to be believed, his initial aim was not to create dangerous malware, but simply to surf the Internet for free. At that time, one could connect to the network from different phone lines with someone else’s password and login. De Guzman is said to have sent a first version of his virus to a few targets in order to recover their codes, people he frequented in online chat rooms.
Searching the address book
It was later that the young man armed his virus to spread automatically, rummaging through infected computers looking for the address book of the Outlook e-mail software and then sending himself to dozens of correspondents. De Guzman has the idea of naming his virus LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU.TXT.VBS. “I told myself that a lot of people want a boyfriend, they want love,” he told the BBC today.
A lot of people click on the message, which looks like a “TXT” text file if you look too quickly, but turns out to be a piece of “VBS” computer code if you bother to read its name all the way through. The virus is aggressive and infects the computer’s memory, taking the place of photos or music and destroying them in the process. “I Love You” will be responsible for damages estimated at about ten billion dollars.
Onel de Guzman is now 44 years old. Questioned by the BBC, he expressed his regrets for the damage caused. “I never imagined that the virus would go to the United States and Europe. It surprised me,” he says now. He even goes so far as to confess… suffering from its fame. “Sometimes my picture appears on the Internet. My friends say: “But it’s you!” I’m a shy person, I don’t want that. »
A small repair shop
A speech that contrasts with the one he gave when he was younger. In 2000, a few months after the creation of the virus, the young man told the New York Times: “I think I’ve become a part of Philippine history. It can’t be erased. “At that time, the damage it caused didn’t cause him as much distress. De Guzman blames Microsoft for marketing “vulnerable products”.
The young man even imagines a future as a designer of tamper-proof software. According to him, many computer companies tried to poach him in the weeks following the publication of the virus, but Onel de Guzman couldn’t find a job when his legal future became clear a few months later.
Nor does he get his university degree after his dissertation was rejected. The dissertation, submitted before the fateful date of 4 May, described a computer program close to the “I Love You” virus. His professor had rejected it at the time with the words “It’s illegal. We are not training thieves.
Onel de Guzman now runs a small mobile phone repair shop with a narrow and messy counter. This is where the BBC found him after a long investigation through obscure forums devoted to the Filipino underground Internet, and then through dozens of workshops in Manila.