New super-virus hits Mideast computers; Israel is prime suspect

Tuesday, May 29, 2012 |  Ryan Jones  

A new computer virus being described as the most sophisticated cyber-weapon in history has begun tearing through government and other computers in Iran, Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian-controlled territories.

Dubbed "Flame," the new virus contains 20 times more code than the Stuxnet virus that infected Iran's nuclear program two years ago, according to Internet security company Kapersky. Stuxnet was previously marveled over for its incredible ability to adapt and alter its attacks, and it was concluded that only a national government would have the resources to develop such a program.

Flame is said to contain some of the code for Stuxnet, creating a clear link between the two viruses. Flame may also have been introduced into the region at the same time as Stuxnet, but has remained dormant until now. All of this again points to Israel, which hinted in the past that it was behind Stuxnet.

Speaking to Army Radio on Tuesday, Israeli Minister for Strategic Affairs Moshe Yaalon would not give a definitive response as to whether or not Israel was behind Flame, but did say, "Israel has been blessed with a prolific hi-tech sector that opens possibilities in both the business and security fields."

Currently, Flame is believed to be conducting targeted attacks on specific data. The virus collects its target data and then deletes it. To date, most of the infected computer systems are in Iran.

The virus was discovered by Kapersky analysts, who were shocked that Flame remained hidden for so long despite its enormous 20 gigabyte size.

"It’s pretty fantastic and incredible in complexity," Kapersky's chief security expert, Alexander Gostev, told Wired magazine. "It will take us 10 years to fully understand everything."

At the same time Flame was discovered and made public, Israel announced that it would invest an additional $13 million in national cyber defenses. Much of those funds will be awarded to private Israeli companies that can demonstrate innovative methods for dealing with new cyber threats.

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