11 February 2001

A Dutch programmer launched the Anna Kournikova virus infecting millions of emails via a trick photo of the tennis star.

The Anna Kournikova virus was a computer worm that spread via email in February 2001. Named after the famous Russian tennis player Anna Kournikova, the virus masqueraded as an image of her in a .jpg file attached to an email with enticing subject lines like “Here you have, ;o)” or “Anna Kournikova pics”. The virus spread rapidly because it took advantage of people’s curiosity about celebrity images, especially those of a popular figure like Anna Kournikova.

When users opened the attachment, instead of seeing pictures of the tennis star, the virus executed a Visual Basic script that replicated itself by sending a copy of the email to all the contacts in the user’s Outlook address book. This led to widespread distribution of the virus in a short period, causing significant disruptions and clogging up email servers.

Despite its rapid spread, the Anna Kournikova virus was relatively harmless compared to other malware of its time. It did not damage files or steal personal information but caused inconvenience and slowdowns due to the sheer volume of emails it generated.

The incident highlighted the vulnerability of computer systems to social engineering tactics and the importance of exercising caution when opening email attachments, even if they appear to be from a known sender or contain enticing content.