Man held in 'Love Bug' case

MANILA, MAY 8. The Philippines authorities have detained a 27- year-old man after searching the home of the suspected creator of the ``Love Bug'' computer virus which has penetrated computers worldwide.

The man was led in handcuffs by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) officers from the back of a flat in a three- storey building in the Pandacan area of the capital Manila. Before being led away, the man had been questioned by investigators inside the flat.

The NBI chief, Mr. Federico Opinion, said that agents had obtained a search warrant after three days of fruitless efforts to seize evidence that might point to the source of the virus which penetrated computers last week, including those of the Pentagon, the CIA and British Parliament.

Mr. Gil Alnas, chairman of the local residents' council, told reporters outside the raided home that criminal investigators had seized 17 items - but they did not include a computer. NBI officials said a search warrant was issued under the Access Device Act, which governs the use of codes, account numbers and passwords giving access to different types of devices. The law provides for a maximum punishment of 20 years in jail.

An NBI official said the main suspect in the case was a 23-year old woman living in the Pandacan area. Neighbours said a man and a woman with no children lived in the home.

The ``Love Bug'' is the most virulent computer virus ever created. It was quickly traced back to the Philippines and the NBI began surveillance of the suspect, a young computer student from a middle class family, on Saturday. But authorities were unable to obtain a search warrant until Monday because under its laws hacking is not a crime.

Newspapers said it was the first time the NBI had investigated a case of computer crime and that a lack of experience may have hamstrung detectives. Earlier, detectives said it was possible the suspect might not be responsible for the computer attack but that her computer had been used. ``It was only (her) computer used to launch the virus that was traced but anybody could use that computer,'' the official said.

``The user here is invisible, it could be anybody. The difference is that the person we have identified is the registered owner of that computer.''

The official also said that given the massive international publicity over the case the suspect could by now have erased evidence from the computer. The Washington Post said the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had traced the virus to the Philippines through a fairly obvious electronic trail and was ready to seize computers used in the attack once it got permission.

In Sweden, a computer expert said on Saturday he believed an 18- year-old German exchange student in Australia was responsible. The Australian Federal Police said they had been given no firm evidence.

- Reuters