Squash that bug!

The media catches the "love bug," and starts replicating stories like a virus gone mad.

Published May 6, 2000 4:00PM (EDT)

There's nothing like a love bug to get folks excited. All across the Net, geeks and newbies alike are agog about the virus that's run amok, and the media is feeding the frenzy. By Friday afternoon both News.com and Wired News had churned out nearly a dozen stories each on this Manila-born threat. While corporate networks were apparently being shut down to avoid the wrath of the virus posing as a love-letter attachment, the news services were racing to report the latest variations, the revelation that the love-bug can munch your MP3s and why those security holes in Microsoft Outlook never seem to get fixed -- plus much, much more.

The Associated Press wires were humming all day with updates on the virus and titillating headlines like "D.C. Weathers E-Mail Virus" and "Love Bug Bites Bush Campaign." Even the venerable Wall Street Journal was bitten by the bug, plastering the cover of its Friday Marketplace section with five stories on the topic. Can the world function without e-mail? the newspaper gravely ponders. Some hard-hitting journalists gathered quotes from the scene of the disaster ("I've been spending the morning calling people telling them I don't really love them," reports one victim), while their colleagues ruminated on the "lonely hearts" who must feel left out because they didn't get the virus. (In contrast, at Scripting News, Dave Winer asks: "Are you pondering what I'm pondering? If you didn't get the virus, does that mean you have smart friends??")

You have to hand it to the author or authors of these viruses -- they are certainly witty. Who could resist the siren call of an attachment that is preceded by the dire message that:

"We have proceeded to charge your credit card for the amount of $326.92 for the mothers day diamond special. We have attached a detailed invoice to this email. Please print out the attachment and keep it in a safe place. Thanks Again and Have a Happy Mothers Day!"

Who wouldn't click on a love letter, apparently from the cute boy in production, or the "funny joke" that your mother sent you? With eight variations so far (as reported by News.com), the virus creators' originality seems to have no end; despite a Net population that is now paranoid about the virus, people are apparently still clicking on the newest attachments.

Here, for your edification, are five virus messages that didn't make the cut.

  • Guess what? Metallica just released a new single, and they released it in MP3! I just downloaded it from Napster -- check it out! Click on the attachment.

  • Hey friend -- just came across this photograph of you ... You look great, but I have just one question for you. Who's the hottie lying next to you? Take a look.

  • This e-mail just landed in my in box, and I nearly died when I saw what it said -- someone from human resources accidentally forwarded me a list of everyone in the company's salaries. I attached it so that you could take a look at it. You aren't going to be pleased with what you see.

  • Free bug give-away! I just found out about this offer to win a New Limited Edition Volkswagen Beetle, available only on the Web. Just fill out the attached form.

  • You won't believe this. Elian's been secretly returned to Cuba! Here's a picture of him with Fidel Castro taken this morning in Havana.

  • By Janelle Brown

    Janelle Brown is a contributing writer for Salon.

    MORE FROM Janelle Brown

    By Katharine Mieszkowski

    Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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    Mother's Day