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Iran main victim of ‘Flame’ cyber attack

06 June 2012

Iran appears to have been the main target of the attack of a malicious computer virus that jammed computer servers in the country’s oil sector last month. In April, the data systems of oil terminals in the Persian Gulf, including the key Kharg Island oil terminal facility, were disconnected from the internet to prevent further damage.

Russian digital security expert Eugene Kaspersky said the virulence of malware such as Flame was a serious threat to international networks
Russian digital security expert Eugene Kaspersky said the virulence of malware such as Flame was a serious threat to international networks

Kaspersky Lab, one of the world’s biggest producers of anti-virus software, said its experts discovered the virus – known as Flame – during an investigation prompted by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

“The complexity and functionality of the newly discovered malicious programme exceeds those of all other cyber menaces known to date,” said the Russian digital security provider.

The company said that Iran was the country by far the worst affected by Flame, followed by Israel/Palestinian Territories, Sudan, Syria and Lebanon.

Flame is a cyber espionage virus, meaning it steals information from infected machines including documents, screenshots and even audio recordings. It then sends the data to servers all over the world.

The complexity of the virus, which is said to be 20 times more powerful than the earlier Stuxnet worm that wreaked havoc on Iran’s nuclear programme, has led cyber experts to believe that only a governmental body would have the resources to develop it.

On June 6, Kaspersky Lab founder Eugene Kaspersky was quoted in the Jerusalem Post as saying that Flame was so much more potentially destructive than previous malware that it, and viruses like it, could threaten the very foundations on which international computer networks depend.

"It's not cyber war, it's cyber terrorism and I'm afraid it's just the beginning of the game ... I'm afraid it will be the end of the world as we know it," Kaspersky told reporters at a Tel Aviv University cyber security conference.

Researchers said technical evidence suggested Flame was built for the same nation or nations that commissioned the Stuxnet worm.

In recent months US officials have become more open about the work of the United States and Israel on Stuxnet, which targeted Iran's Natanz nuclear enrichment facility.

The West suspects Iran is developing atomic weapons. Tehran denies this, says it is enriching uranium only for civilian use.

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