Published June 19, 2012
Israel and the United States collaborated in the development of the powerful computer virus dubbed the "Flame," which briefly affected Iran's key oil industry, an official with knowledge of the effort said.
The Washington Post reports that the massive piece of malware, which collected critical intelligence information from Iran, was created with the aim of slowing the country's suspected nuclear weapon development.
The Worm.Win32.Flame threat, or “Flame” for short, was likely built by the same nation-state responsible for the Stuxnet virus that targeted Iran’s nuclear power plant in 2010. Many suspect Stuxnet was the work of Israeli intelligence.
Flame has unprecedented data-snatching capabilities and can eavesdrop on computer users, a senior Iranian military official told the Associated Press.
The virus was designed to send back a stream of information used for an ongoing cyberwarfare campaign by secretly mapping and monitoring Iran's computer networks, the Washingonton Post reported.
The virus can activate a computer's audio systems to listen in on Skype calls or office chatter. It can also take screenshots, log keystrokes and -- in one of its more novel functions -- steal data from Bluetooth-enabled cellphones.
“Our current working theory is that flame and Stuxnet were parallel projects,” Roel Schouwenberg, a senior security researcher with Kaspersky Labs, told FoxNews.com. “Whoever commissioned Stuxnet also commissioned Flame.”
That cyberattack was very specific, however, while the Flame attack is broad, having been detected in more than half a dozen countries already: Hungary, Iran, and Lebanon, Austria, Russia, Hong Kong, and the United Arab Emirates, as well the Palestinian West Bank.
“Flame is a cyberespionage operation,” he told FoxNews.com.
Iran's government-run Computer Emergency Response Team Coordination Center has said the highly sophisticated Flame virus appeared linked to espionage, but cited no specific country or source.
Ali Hakim Javadi, Iran's deputy Minister of Communications and Information Technology, was quoted by the official IRNA news agency last month as saying that Iranian experts have already produced an anti-virus capable of identifying and removing Flame from computers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.