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Powerful ‘Flame’ Computer Virus Hits Iran, Mideast


(RFE/RL) — Experts say they have discovered a complex virus, dubbed “Flame” or “Skywiper,” which is infecting and stealing information from computers in Iran and the Middle East.

The news is certain to stoke speculation that the virus is part of a growing list of examples of intelligence agencies waging cyberwar on foreign governments or other targets.

“The Telegraph” quotes Budapest University’s Crysys Lab, which investigates computer viruses, as saying that “information gathering from a large network of infected computers was never crafted as carefully.”

“It covers all major possibilities to gather intelligence, including keyboard, screen, microphone, storage devices, network, WiFi, Bluetooth, USB and system processes,” Crysys Lab said, according to “The Telegraph.”

Stuxnet Redux?

Russian anti-virus firm Kaspersky was quoted elsewhere as saying that evidence suggests the virus may have been built on behalf of the same country that commissioned the Stuxnet worm that attacked Iran’s nuclear program in 2010.

Iran has accused the United States and Israel of deploying Stuxnet, which Iranian officials conceded had inflicted some damage.

Kaspersky said on May 28 that Flame/Skywiper could be five years old and “is 20 times more complicated” than Stuxnet.

Iran said the virus bore a “close relation” to Stuxnet, and might be linked to recent cyberattacks apparently responsible for massive data losses on Iranian computers.

Kaspersky Lab said it discovered Flame/Skywiper after a UN agency asked it to analyze malicious software across the Middle East in search of the data-wiping virus reported by Iran.

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RFE/RL journalists report the news in 21 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established.

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