'Love' bug hits Australian trade commission

Austrade IT staff member inadvertenly unleashes 'Love' bug on 1000-seat global network.

The e-mail server at Australia’s federal trade commission, Austrade, was shut down from about 3.00pm Friday until lunchtime on Sunday after a curious twist of circumstances resulted in the network being infected via one of Austrade's own IT staff.

The un-named Austrade staffer had been issuing the warnings and instructions about anti-virus updates when he accidentally activated one of the virus variants, unleashing it onto Austrade’s 1000-plus seat global network.

According to Austrade's corporate manager for IT, Les Boag, anti-virus updates were issued on Friday morning and staff followed warnings from the IT department. No-one who received the original "I love you" e-mail opened it.

When some Austrade staff received the "Fwd: Joke" version, still not opening it, they forwarded the e-mails to the IT department to raise the alert. It was then that the virus was triggered.

"With the virus on the Austrade network, we immediately disconnected all global e-mail links," Boag explained.

"Only 11 PCs were infected, and of these, four had started to replicate the virus by the time we stopped the Microsoft Exchange cues."

In a turn of good luck, regional Austrade IT staff were in Canberra for an annual conference and within minutes were on the phone to LAN administrators around the world. The virus carrying messages were then cleaned out of every mailbox on the network, and the further updated antivirus software was installed.

"With the infection coming from a trusted (IT Department) source, I am very impressed that only 11 people opened the attachment. It was a great team effort to minimise the impact," Boag insisted.

Because of the potential disruption to Austrade's business activity around the world, Boag said that the main concern was ensuring those regions for whom it was only coming into Friday morning were fully informed of the problem. He added that all other business links and other systems remained functional.