Student acknowledges `Love Bug' link

He says it's `possible' he released it by accident


MANILA, Philippines -- Appearing nervous behind a pair of dark glasses, a young computer student told reporters yesterday that "it is possible" that he released a destructive virus that has crippled computer programs around the world.

Onel de Guzman, 23, did not quite admit that he created the "ILOVEYOU" virus that recently spread rapidly through e-mail systems in at least 20 countries.

But when he was asked whether he might have accidentally released the virus, he replied, "It is possible."

De Guzman, who lives in an apartment that has been identified by officials as the source of the virus, was being sought by authorities, although they have not officially named him as a suspect.

Suspicion focused on him when it was learned that he had submitted a thesis proposal to his computer college in February that contained information similar to that used to create the virus.

Guzman said that he was not an Internet fanatic and that he and his friends had only been trying to create what he called "a gimmick" -- a term used among young people here for an event that is exciting and fun.

Standing beside him, his lawyer, Rolando Quimbo, said, "He is not really aware that the act imputed to him was done by him."

These comments reinforced a growing sense that one of the most virulent computer viruses ever known was not a premeditated act of sabotage but could have been a prank that raced out of control.

Officials at AMA Computer College, where de Guzman is a student, said Wednesday that they believed that he might have intended to steal passwords and Internet access rather than cause tens of millions of dollars of damage to computer systems around the world.

The lead investigator at the National Bureau of Investigation, Nelson Bartolome, said that the creators of the virus "did not know it was criminal. Perhaps it was just a prank." De Guzman's thesis proposal, which was rejected because of its criminal implications, described a plan to "steal and retrieve Internet accounts of the victim's computer" in order to gain free access to the Internet.

"I don't think you need very, very sophisticated programming language to create viruses, in the same way that you don't need very, very sophisticated weapons to wreak havoc on a society," said Filipino sociologist Randy David.

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