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Iran's Nukes

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Did Israel Unleash 'Flame' Virus?

May 29th 2012

Iran centrifuges

Experts say the recently discovered "Flame" virus is the most sophisticated ever found, three times as large as Stuxnet and almost certainly created by a state sponsor. But who?

Early speculation has centered on Israel. As The New York Times reports:  Moshe Ya’alon, Israel’s vice-premier, fueled speculation of Israeli involvement on Tuesday when he told Army Radio: “Whoever sees the Iranian threat as a serious threat would be likely to take different steps, including these, in order to hurt them.”

Israel was a country blessed with superior technology, he said, adding: “These achievements of ours open up all kinds of possibilities for us.”

The Flame virus has been infecting computer systems in Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Sudan and the West Bank. While Stuxnet targeted computers tied to Iran's nuclear program, Flame is spyware that steals information and sends it back to a central server.

According to ABC News:  "We can't pinpoint who is actually behind it but we can narrow the list of potential actors," Vikram Thakur, a manager at Symantec, told ABC News Monday. "It's a project that's been out for years, and flown under the radar. It is extremely well funded."

The technology magazine Wired describes Flame this way:  Among Flame’s many modules is one that turns on the internal microphone of an infected machine to secretly record conversations that occur either over Skype or in the computer’s near vicinity; a module that turns Bluetooth-enabled computers into a Bluetooth beacon, which scans for other Bluetooth-enabled devices in the vicinity to siphon names and phone numbers from their contacts folder; and a module that grabs and stores frequent screenshots of activity on the machine, such as instant-messaging and email communications, and sends them via a covert SSL channel to the attackers’ command-and-control servers.

Iran said Tuesday that the virus has already stolen "massive amounts" of data. Iran's MAHER Center said Tuesday that the Flame virus "has caused substantial damage" and that "massive amounts of data have been lost."

The center, which is part of Iran's Communication's Ministry said that the virus' level of complexity, accuracy and high-functionality – noted mostly by the information corrupted – indicated that there is a "relation" to the Stuxnet virus. Iranian experts said that Flame was able to overcome 43 different anti-virus programs.

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