Man who wrecked 45 mln computers with 'Love Bug' virus in 2000 traced to cellphone repair booth

Onel de Guzman, who released the world's first major computer virus 'accidentally', says he regrets the act.

The hacker who released the world's first major computer virus has been tracked after 20 years of mystery. Filipino Onel de Guzman, now a 44-year-old working in a repair booth, has said he unleashed the "Love Bug" virus, but never intended to spread it globally.

He told Geoff White, the reporter who tracked him down, that he used the virus to steal passwords in order to access the internet without paying, reported The Telegraph. However, Guzman regretted the act that caused huge damage globally.

Further he told White in an interview for a book on cyber-crime he is currently working on, that he never thought that the virus would travel to the US and Europe, while it came as a surprise for him.

I Love You

Love Bug Virus screenshot
Love Bug Virus Screenshot Wikipedia

The love bug was released on May 4 of 2000 as an email, also referred as "ILOVEYOU" that infected more than 45 million machines. The email subject line was written as "ILOVEYOU," while the attachment "LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU.txt.vbs".

The VBScript file attached to the email contained code to overwrite files, steal passwords and also to automatically send its copies to any Microsoft Outlook contacts.

The UK parliament shut down its email network for hours due to the Love Bug virus, while Pentagon got reportedly affected by de Guzman's love letter bug. It is estimated that it caused billions of pounds of disruption and damage.

How was he traced?

The creator of the Love Bug was traced to an email address that was registered to a Filipino apartment in the capital of Manila. Guzman, then a computer science student at AMA Computer College of the city, was the lead suspect marked by investigations.

Onel de Guzman
Student Onel de Guzman Wikimedia Commons

He said at a press conference that he might have 'possibly' released the virus accidentally. But luck was with him. As there were no such law to cover computer hacking in Philippines, no was not prosecuted.

Working on his book 'Crime Dot Com' White started to look for Guzman. There were online rumours that the hacker might have moved to Germany, Austria or the United States. Conspiracy theories said he might have been recruited by Microsoft itself for his expertise.

He runs a cellphone repair shop

However, a Filipino underworld forum user had claimed in 2016 that the hacker ran a cellphone repair shop in Quiapo district of Manila. In April 2019, White visited the area where he wrote Guzman's name on a paper, showing it to the dozens of such mobile shop workers. One person said he knew the name and further said Guzman worked in a yet another phone repair shop in a Manila's mall.

Onel de Guzman
Onel de Guzman Youtube Screengrab

Guzman was found there. That's when he said that the popular "Love Bug" malware was a revamped version of the one he created to steal passwords as he couldn't afford it.

"I figured out that many people want a boyfriend, they want each other, they want love, so I called it that," he said.

He sent the bug initially to a person in Singapore. He got to know of the chaos it created only after his mother told that police were on a hunt for a hacker in Manila.

"Sometimes I get my picture on the Internet," Guzman told White. "My friends say, 'It's you!' I'm a shy person, I don't want this."​