Think before you click. It’s a mantra that could have stopped so many email viruses in their tracks. After all, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is — and that was the case with the Anna Kournikova virus, which fooled computer users in February 2001.

On Feb. 11, 2001, users began receiving emails with the subject line “Here you have, :o),” the message “Hi: Check This!” and an attachment named “AnnaKournikova.jpg.vbs.” Everyone missed the “.vbs.” Instead of opening a JPEG, they opened a Visual Basic worm — similar to the 2000’s ILOVEYOU worm — that emailed itself to everyone in their Outlook address book. The virus also automatically connected the user’s computer to Dutch company Dynabyte’s website on January 26 of each year. Only PCs were vulnerable, and a Microsoft security patch issued after the ILOVEYOU worm prevented Kournikova’s spread. (Always install those patches!)

The impact of the Kournikova virus

The creator, a twenty-year-old Dutch programmer named Jan De Wit, quickly outed himself by turning himself in on Valentine’s Day 2001. He told authorities that he created the virus using a “script kiddie,” or a readily available toolkit. The toolkit was described as being designed for the nefarious, but amateur, hacker. De Wit was ultimately sentenced to 150 community service hours or 75 days in jail.

The Anna Kournikova virus lived on, however. In a 2004 episode of Friends — “The One in Barbados, Part 1” — Chandler deletes Ross’ paleontology conference presentation, after opening an email promising a nude photo of the Russian tennis star. The sitcom version of the virus instantly wiped Ross’ hard drive — and, interestingly enough, affected Macs. Ross wasn’t using a PC — he had a Powerbook G4.

 

Kate Johanns

Posted by Kate Johanns

Kate Johanns is a communications professional and freelance writer with more than 13 years of experience in publishing and marketing.

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