I love you!

Do you remember? It was sometime in May 2000 (to be honest, I had to look up the date). You were sitting at your CRT monitor. It seemed like just a normal day at the office until, all at once, an email appeared: ILOVEYOU. Your heart began to beat faster, and it even seemed like the sun was suddenly shining more brightly. Once you got over the initial surprise, you took a look at the sender: it was from a colleague. The (happily?) married colleague who always laughs at your jokes. Was this the real reason? Or perhaps the email wasn’t intended for you at all. Perhaps it was meant for another colleague and you had a front-row seat to an office romance that was unfolding before you. Your thoughts were all over the place, all the more because of the attachment included with the email: “LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU.txt.vbs”.

You glanced over your shoulder to make sure no one was looking and… you opened the attachment. But then, nothing. Surprised and perhaps a bit disappointed too, you continue to stare at your screen, until the colleague opposite you asks, “Why have you sent me an email with the subject line ‘ILOVEYOU?’” Then it dawned on you: just like millions of other people, you were the victim of the ILOVEYOU virus, the Love Bug that eventually caused 5.5 billion dollars of damage around the globe.

No other cyberattack had been so effective or resulted in so much media attention. It remained relatively quiet in the subsequent years; there were, of course, cyberattacks and viruses, but none as infamous as the ILOVEYOU virus. In more recent years, however, this has clearly been changing. First, there was the “heartbleed” security bug that was disclosed in 2014. This wasn’t a virus, but it was a serious vulnerability that exposed many systems to a potential attack. The attention that this bug received in the media and elsewhere should have been an eye-opener and a motivation to start taking system security seriously by phasing out or updating old software in good time, and making sure the systems are effectively protected.

That not everyone heeded this advice became evident earlier this year when the WannaCry ransomware cryptoworm had them in its grip. On social media, photos of locked screens with a message demanding a ransom began circulating. And these were not just photos of PC and laptop screens either: even car parks appeared to have become ransom victims too.

After the world had barely recovered from the previous attack, the latest hostage taker appeared yesterday, unnamed so far. This time, an entire commercial port terminal has been crippled thanks to the attack. These attacks show us just how much we are living in an internet world and how dependent we are on online technology—as well as how vulnerable we are when this technology turns against us.

Given this, the first computer virus you encountered could not have had a better name: I love you. It was the start of your relationship with computer security, where you learned never to take the security of your system for granted. This relationship demands a lot of attention and regular updates to keep it going. If you forget this, the relationship will be done for, and your ex-lover will walk away with all your files. Only the backups from better times will remain…

Erwin van den Broek is a product manager at Hyarchis. If you would like to find out how a DMS can protect your files from a ransomware attack, contact us. We’d love to tell you more.