- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 9, 2000

Philippine police, accompanied by FBI agents, raided an apartment in Manila yesterday and arrested a bank employee who along with his girlfriend is suspected of links to the "ILOVEYOU" virus that infected computer networks in more than 20 countries last week..
But relatives of the man, Reomel Ramones, said they believe the real culprit may be a third person who lived in the apartment the girlfriend's unemployed sister, who recently graduated from a computer school that a U.S. security firm has linked to the "Love Bug" virus.
Investigators entered the apartment in Pandacan, a lower-middle-class Manila neighborhood, and seized computer diskettes, wires, telephones and other computer accessories.
No one was home at the time of the raid, but Mr. Ramones later returned and was arrested by agents from the country's National Bureau of Investigation. His girlfriend was contacted by investigators and promised to appear at NBI headquarters, NBI chief Federico Opinion said. He did not give her name, and her sister's whereabouts were not immediately known.
No charges were immediately filed against Mr. Ramones. By law, charges must be filed within 36 hours.
Federico Opinion, chief of the Filipino National Bureau of Investigation, said charging the suspects will be difficult because his country has no law to prosecute people charged with using the Internet to commit crimes.
"The 'love bug' is a perfect example of how viruses move at the speed of light. Unfortunately, international law doesn't move that quickly," said David Green, deputy chief of the computer crime and the intellectual-property section of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Mr. Green said there has been no decision yet on whether to seek extradition of any suspects.
But he said the creator of the "love bug" did violate U.S. law when the virus damaged computers here in the attack that first hit the nation on Thursday. Despite that, the role of U.S. authorities investigating the cyber-crime is limited by the laws of the country in which a suspect lives. It's a problem that government and Internet officials expect to see more of in a global medium that has little use for borders.
The Justice Department is working with the United Nations and the Organization of American States to draft international laws prohibiting Internet crime and also give police worldwide new powers to investigate computer crimes.
The department also is working with the Council of Europe, which includes the United States and countries in Europe, on a proposal to increase cooperative efforts and aid police in investigations in member countries.
Without international laws or treaties, law enforcement agencies rely on good relationships with other countries to help international investigations, said Michael Vatis, director of the FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center.
The number of countries with laws addressing Internet crime is growing slowly, Mr. Vatis said. The Philippines is not yet among them.
The "ILOVEYOU" virus which wreaked havoc on computers in offices from Ford Motor Co. to the U.S. House of Representatives and the British Parliament has caused an estimated $4.7 billion in damages, according to California-based Computer Economics, and could reach $10 billion.
The virus is released when attachments are opened on computers using Microsoft Outlook, a software program that runs e-mail. Once the virus infects a computer, it can destroy files on the user's own hard drive and on networks the user is connected to. The virus was erasing the content of music and photo files and copying itself into those files.
Workplace computers were hardest hit, although home computers are also vulnerable.
Computer Economics estimated yesterday that 78 million computer users worldwide received e-mails with the virus and about 1 percent, or 780,000, opened them.
The National Infrastructure Protection Center said 11 variants of the virus had been identified as of late Sunday and it was continuing to cause damage yesterday.
Japan was hit hard as tens of thousands of workers returned to work from a weeklong holiday to find the virus waiting yesterday in their computers.
The vulnerability of U.S. computers left companies, government agencies and business groups pondering what they can do to deter and protect against cyber-vandals.
Bill McDonald, a board member of the National White Collar Crime Center, a federally funded Richmond-based law enforcement project, said international law must be drafted so no nation can act as a safe haven to protect those responsible for Internet crime.
"The international legal system is not up to regulating the Internet, but every country has an interest in getting this done," he said.
In a speech yesterday at the Anti-Defamation League's national leadership conference in Washington, FBI Director Louis J. Freeh said the legal system will need to adapt to the Internet.
"We're really playing catch-up. We're going to be doing that, I think, for some time because of the rate with which this technology accelerates," he said.
The Justice Department and FBI yesterday started a Web site www.ifccfbi.gov where consumers and businesses can report cases of suspected Internet fraud.
But privacy advocates warn government agencies must not trample individual rights in their rush to pursue Internet criminals.
"If government agencies need additional authority, procedures or treaties, we need to be sure they aren't using them to further limit the privacy rights of corporations and individuals," said Bruce Heiman, executive director of Washington-based Americans For Computer Privacy.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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