Flame virus most powerful espionage tool ever, UN warns
THE Flame virus is the most powerful espionage tool ever to target countries, a United Nations agency responsible for regulating the internet has warned.
This is the most serious warning we have ever put out," said Marco Obiso, cyber security coordinator for the UN's Geneva-based International Telecommunications Union.
The formal warning will tell member nations that the Flame virus is a dangerous espionage tool that could potentially be used to attack critical infrastructure, he said. "They should be on alert."
Orla Cox, a security analyst at the security firm Symantec, said that Flame was targeting specific individuals, apparently Iranian related. "The way it has been developed is unlike anything we've seen before," she said. "It's huge. It's like using an atomic weapon to crack a nut."
Figures released by the Kaspersky Lab show that infections by the programme were spread across the Middle East with 189 attacks in Iran, 98 incidents in the West Bank, 32 in Sudan and 30 in Syria.
Other countries where the virus was detected include Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
Evidence suggest that the virus, dubbed Flame, may have been built on behalf of the same nation or nations that commissioned the Stuxnet worm that attacked Iran's nuclear program in 2010, according to Kaspersky Lab, the Russian cyber security software maker that took credit for discovering the infections.
"I think it is a much more serious threat than Stuxnet," Mr Obiso said.
Unlike the Stuxnet virus that was previously used to disrupt Iranian systems, Flame does not disrupt or terminate systems.
Iran, whose nuclear facilities and oil ministry have previously been the target of virus attacks, accuses the US and Israel of trying to sabotage its programme. It denies the allegation that its programme is weapons related.
A leading Israeli politician hinted at the country's involvement in the virus. Israel rejects Tehran's claims that its nuclear programme is designed to produce energy, not bombs. It considers Iran to be the greatest threat to its survival.
"Whoever sees the Iranian threat as a significant threat is likely to take various steps, including these, to hobble it," Vice Premier Moshe Yaalon told Army Radio. "Israel is blessed with high technology, and we boast tools that open all sorts of opportunities for us."