This story was written by Keith Dawson for the Industry Standard's Media Grok email newsletter. It is archived here for informational purposes only because The Standard's site is no more. This material is Copyright 1999-2001 by Standard Media.

Press, Marketers Still Love the Bug
May 10 2000 12:00 AM PDT

As the Love Bug case continued to develop, the press kept up the drumbeat. Advertisers played along, using the global worm to promote antivirus products and any other services that were even vaguely related to Internet security.

The Hacker News Network pointed out a heap of sloppy reporting, from the west as well as the Philippines, among news outlets that couldn't agree on the original suspect's name, age or much else. One remnant of this confusion in today's reportage is disagreement over whether the first name of the man questioned and released is Reonel or Reomel.

A Philippine paper advanced the story of the hunt for the worm's inventor and/or distributor, and a number of U.S. outlets pursued similar lines of inquiry. Suspicion has turned from Reonel (?) Ramones and his girlfriend Irene de Guzman to de Guzman's sister Jocelyn, who was reported to live with the couple, Jocelyn's brother (or cousin) Onel and a friend of Onel's.

The Philippines Star carried the most detail on the life and times of Onel de Guzman, a 23-year-old former computer student whose final thesis was rejected because its purpose was to steal passwords. (The VBS/LoveLet.A worm tried to download and run just such a program.) The Star said Onel is Irene's brother.

In the Washington Post, Rajiv Chandrasekaran reported that the online pseudonyms of Onel de Guzman (who may be Irene's cousin) and of his friend and fellow student Michael Buen had been on the list of 10 pseudonyms the FBI gave to Philippine authorities. Chandrasekaran quoted Swedish security expert Fredrik Bjorck's characterization of the many people who may be involved: "a) the creator of the Love Bug, b) the distributor of it, c) the creator of the backdoor d) the person owning the computer that the Love Bug was sent from."

Associated Press reporting from the Philippines has been on top of this story from the beginning. CNET carried today's AP story centering on Onel de Guzman and Buen. The unnamed AP reporter obtained both students' thesis proposals and visited Buen's mother, who said Buen has only an old computer that can't even get on the Internet. (And we bet the only time they used it was for church on Sundays.)

MSNBC followed the steps of several cybersleuths who found evidence for Onel's and Buen's involvement. Besides attending the same school, the youths were reported to be members of GRAMMERSoft, which MSNBC characterized as a "virus writers' group" mentioned in the worm's code.

The Wall Street Journal's Andrea Petersen and Julia Angwin detailed the way antivirus companies, as well as Web-based e-mail and storage dot-coms, jumped to capitalize on the Love Bug rampage, taking out full-page ads and launching e-mail campaigns. Guess they just want a share of all that love. - Keith Dawson

The Name Game: Groking the Love Bug
Hacker News

'Love Bug' Product of Failed Thesis
Philadelphia Star

Hunt for Virus Creator Continues
Washington Post

Students Seen as 'Potential Leads' in Virus Investigation (AP)

Virus May Have Been Thesis Project

Computer Virus Suspect Released
Manila Bulletin

Case vs. 'Love Bug' Suspects Stalls on 'Insufficient Evidence'
Business World

Malacanang Pushing Measure Against Cyberspace Crime
Manila Times

High-Tech Marketers Love the 'Love Bug'
Wall Street Journal
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