WASHINGTON -- At least 14 federal agencies were penetrated last week by the ''Love Bug'' computer virus, a government technology expert testified today.
''Virtually all of the largest federal agencies have significant computer security weaknesses that place critical federal operations and assets at risk to computer-based attacks,'' said Keith Rhodes, director of the Office of Computer and Information Technology Assessment in Congress' General Accounting Office.
Among the agencies hit by the Love Bug virus were the Social Security Administration, the Energy Department, the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Aeronautic and Space Administration, the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Defense Department, Rhodes told the House Science technology subcommittee.
The ''Love Bug'' virus, which has been called the fastest-spreading and most destructive computer virus ever, caused a flood of e-mails with the subject line ''ILOVEYOU'' to course through computer systems worldwide. When opened, the virus can destroy graphics and other saved files. Several variations appeared soon after.
The Love Bug also installs a password-stealing program, experts said.
''Some DOD (Defense Department) machines required complete software reloads to overcome the extent of the damage,'' Rhodes said. ''The virus-slash-worm spread rapidly through the department, penetrating even some classified systems.''
So far, anti-virus experts have detected 26 different versions of the Love Bug virus, said Sandra England, vice president of development for McAfee, a provider of anti-virus software. Lloyd's of London has estimated the damage caused by the Love Bug to be over $15 billion, said Rep. Constance Morella, R-Md.
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