Campus & Community

UIS assesses ‘love bug’ aftermath

2 min read

University Information Systems (UIS) is still working to assess the damage from last week’s pesky ILOVE YOU virus that struck e-mail systems worldwide.

Disguised as an e-mail attachment, the virus apparently emanated from the Philippines, and spread primarily through Microsoft’s Outlook Express e-mail program, by sending copies of itself to others in the victims’ address books. Once the attachment was opened, it could destroy certain MP3 music and picture files.

The bug struck an estimated 80 percent of corporate e-mail systems in Sweden, and 30 percent of corporate e-mail systems in Great Britain. Other victims included the United Nations headquarters in New York, the White House, and the Pentagon.

At Harvard, it appears damage was minimal, according to Tim Gleason, manager of technical systems at UIS. “If I was to categorize it, I would say that most of the infections we had were annoyances more than anything,” he says. “For the most part, they did not affect the operating condition of the machines. There were a couple of instances where it went in and deleted some image files, but we should be able to go back to tape to restore most of those images.”

Gleason also says most Harvard e-mail systems utilize Eudora Pro, not Outlook Express, thereby reducing the risk of infection.

As a precautionary measure, however, UIS shut down the e-mail system serving the central administration last Thursday afternoon to filter incoming messages and to update antivirus software. The mail system was back up by 10 p.m.

Heather Reid, the director of Technology and Information Management for the Office of News and Public Affairs, says the quick response helped “nip the virus in the bud” without any “major damage.”

Major damage or not, Gleason believes the ILOVE YOU virus “ranks up there as one of the most annoying, time-consuming viruses that we’ve had to fight [at Harvard]. We are still doing cleanup now.” The follow-up operation is expected to take several weeks.