Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Flame Virus 'Most Complex Threat' in Cyber-Warfare: Is Israel to Blame?

Flame Virus 'Most Complex Threat' in Cyber-Warfare: Is Israel to Blame?

The Flame virus, described as one of the most dangerous and powerful forms of malware created is being blamed on Israel for its destruction and damage throughout the Middle East. Some experts say it serves the same purpose as an earlier virus, Stuxnet, that disabled Iranian nuclear facilities.

The Flame virus has affected largely Iran, disrupting computers and being spread rapidly, though no one is completely sure of how it is communicated. Although Iran is the country most affected, Israel and Palestine come next on the list, followed by Sudan, Syria, and Lebanon.

The reason the Flame virus is so dangerous lies in its various data-collecting methods. Where other malware or spyware is designed to attack email or steal money, the flame virus takes screenshots, records audio through the computer's microphone, and accesses nearby devices via Bluetooth.

Kaspersky Lab experts described the Flame virus as a "sophisticated attack toolkit" and "one of the most complex threats ever discovered" for its multiple dangerous possibilities.

"Flame is a sophisticated attack toolkit, which is a lot more complex than Duqu (another virus)," reads the lab blog. "It is a backdoor, a Trojan, and it has worm-like features, allowing it to replicate in a local network and on removable media if it is commanded so by its master."

What's worse is that as dangerous as the virus is, it can get worse if the hackers command flame to upload more capability while on a computer.

"Later, the operators can choose to upload further modules, which expand Flame's functionality. There are about 20 modules in total … comprising almost 20 MB in size when fully deployed. Because of this, it is an extremely difficult piece of malware to analyze," the blog explained.

The complexity and timing of the virus- Kaspersky labs alleges it has been around since about March of 2010- points directly to Israeli intelligence, according to some critics.

"The goal is apparently to infiltrate the computers of individuals in Iran, Israel, Palestine and elsewhere who are engaged in activities that interest Israel's secret police including military intelligence," wrote Richard Silverstein on Israel's liberal website Tikun Olam. He also alleged that Israel being the second most-affected country could have to do with Flame being used to spy on citizens.

More significant was Israel's vice-premier's acknowledgement of the Flame virus as an easy way to harm a "serious threat" like Iran.

"Whoever sees the Iranian threat as a serious threat would be likely to take different steps, including these, in order to hurt them," Vice-Premier Moshe Ya'alon told Army Radio. "These achievements of ours (using superior technology) open up all kinds of possibilities for us."

Although the evidence may be pointing to Israel as a possible culprit, there was certainly no admission or credit taken for the virus. Any additional evidence may be tough to find as well, because hackers can simply tell Flame to self-destruct, leaving no trace of the malware behind.


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