Flame virus: Was computer bug in Iran's computer networks made in the U.S.?
Virus bears hallmarks of a U.S. cyber espionage operation
The highly virulent Flame virus invaded Iran's computer networks at a
time there were heightened concerns over that nation's nuclear weapons
program. The question arises: was the virus a special surprise "gift"
from U.S. espionage? Computer security experts have told NBC News that
the virus bears the hallmarks of a U.S. cyber espionage operation,
specifically that of the super-secret National Security Agency.
U.S. intelligence officials declined to discuss the virus. 'We have no comment,' said one. Israeli officials, suspected in previous attacks, denied involvement.
The U.S. is also believed to have created the Stuxnet virus, which targeted Iran's uranium-enriching centrifuges. According to cyber-security experts, the freshly discovered Flame virus essentially "colonizes" the targeted computers, giving hackers control over critical data stored on them.
U.S. intelligence officials declined to discuss the virus. "We have no comment," said one. Israeli officials, suspected in previous attacks, denied involvement.
The virus was first discovered and announced over the weekend by a Russian cyber-security organization after reports of massive data losses in Iranian government computers. Kaspersky Lab says it found the Flame infection after the International Telecommunications Union asked it to investigate. The virus has been operating in the wild for as long as five years.
"This is the most serious (cyber) warning we have ever put out," Marco Obiso, cyber-security coordinator for the U.N.'s Geneva-based ITU.
The confidential warning will tell member nations that the Flame virus is a dangerous espionage tool that could potentially be used to attack critical infrastructure, Obiso said.
Other experts said the virus appears to be a different type of invader than Stuxnet.
"From reading press reports, this appears to be penetrating networks to survey, as opposed to destroy, as was the case with Stuxnet," Michael Leiter, former director of the National Counter Terrorism Center says. "Such computer network operations are core components of what our and other intelligence services do day in and day out.
"Our intelligence services know that any weakness in an information system can mean the entire system is vulnerable. This makes defense very, very hard. Network defenses must work reliably and in real time across the entire network to defend against persistent intruders."
If this is indeed a U.S. cyber-warfare operation, computer security expert Roger Cressey says, the target is likely to be Iran's nuclear program and its decision-making apparatus.
"Whoever has developed this is engaged in very sophisticated intelligence gathering on computer networks throughout the region. Clearly, Iran is a top priority for this program," Cressey said, former chief of staff of the President's Critical Infrastructure Protection Board under George W. Bush.
© 2012, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Flame virus, Iran, Internet privacy, espionage, Stuxnet
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