The United States and Israel jointly created a sophisticated personal computer virus nicknamed Flame that collected intelligence in preparation for cyber-sabotage aimed at slowing Iran’s capacity to develop a nuclear weapon, according to Western officials with information of the effort.
The huge piece of malware secretly mapped and monitored Iran’s laptop or computer networks, sending back a steady stream of intelligence to prepare for a cyberwarfare campaign, according to the officials.
The effort, involving the National Security Agency, the CIA and Israel’s military, has included the use of destructive computer software such as the Stuxnet virus to lead to malfunctions in Iran’s nuclear-enrichment equipment.
The emerging particulars about Flame give new clues to what is believed to be the first sustained campaign of cyber-sabotage against an adversary of the United States.
“This is about preparing the battlefield for another kind of covert action,” mentioned one former high-ranking U.S. intelligence official, who added that Flame and Stuxnet had been components of a broader assault that continues today. “Cyber-collection against the Iranian program is way further down the road than this.”
Flame came to light last month after Iran detected a series of cyberattacks on its oil business. The disruption was directed by Israel in a unilateral operation that apparently caught its American partners off guard, according to a number of U.S. and Western officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
There has been speculation that Washington had a function in creating Flame, but the collaboration on the virus between the United States and Israel has not been previously confirmed. Commercial security researchers reported last week that Flame contained some of the exact same code as Stuxnet. Experts described the overlap as DNA-like evidence that the two sets of malware had been parallel projects run by the same entity.
Spokesmen for the CIA, the NSA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, as well as the Israeli Embassy in Washington, declined to comment.
The virus is among the most sophisticated and subversive pieces of malware to be exposed to date. Authorities said the program was developed to replicate across even extremely secure networks, then control everyday pc functions to send secrets back to its creators. The code could activate personal computer microphones and cameras, log keyboard strokes, take screen shots, extract geolocation data from images, and send and get commands and data through Bluetooth wireless technology.
Flame was designed to do all this whilst masquerading as a routine Microsoft software update it evaded detection for numerous years by utilizing a sophisticated program to crack an encryption algorithm.
“This is not something that most security researchers have the abilities or resources to do,” mentioned Tom Parker, chief technology officer for FusionX, a security firm that specializes in simulating state-sponsored cyberattacks. He stated he does not know who was behind the virus. “You’d count on that of only the most advanced cryptomathematicians, such as those working at NSA.”
Conventional plus cyber
Flame was developed at least 5 years ago as part of a classified effort code-named Olympic Games, according to officials familiar with U.S. cyber-operations and specialists who have scrutinized its code. The U.S.-Israeli collaboration was intended to slow Iran’s nuclear program, minimize the pressure for a conventional military attack and extend the timetable for diplomacy and sanctions.
The cyberattacks augmented conventional sabotage efforts by both countries, including inserting flawed centrifuge parts and other elements into Iran’s nuclear supply chain.
The very best-recognized cyberweapon let loose on Iran was Stuxnet, a name coined by researchers in the antivirus market who discovered it two years ago.
Sources and more information:
U.S., Israel developed Flame computer virus to slow Iranian nuclear efforts, officials say – The Washington Post. By Ellen Nakashima, Greg Miller and Julie Tate, Published: June 19 The United States and Israel jointly developed a sophisticated computer virus nicknamed Flame that collected critical intelligence in preparation for cyber-sabotage…