A U.S. and Israeli collaboration created the vastly complex cyber weapon Flame, designed to slow Iran’s nuclear program, officials familiar with the mission have told The Washington Post.
Development of the Flame virus was overseen by the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency and Israel’s military, the report noted. Those same groups also developed Stuxnet, the first cyber weapon discovered that was believed to have been created with state-backing. Some of Stuxnet’s code was also detected in Flame.
Flame is capable of turning on microphones and cameras, monitoring online activities and keystrokes and pinpointing the location of users. Deployed more than five years ago, it remained hidden by cracking the encryption in Microsoft’s Windows Update program, allowing the creators to communicate with the program remotely.
The virus was first spotted in May by Kaspersky Lab, an anti-virus company. They noted that it contained code that specifically sought out PDF and AutoCAD files, which may indicate that its creators were interested in detailed schematics pertaining to Iran’s nuclear program. The company added that Iran also sustained the highest number of Flame inflections.
Shortly after Kaspersky announced its discovery, the virus’s “command-and-control infrastructure, which had been operating for years, went dark.” Days later, anti-virus company Symantec added that various Flame infections appeared to have been given a self-destruct command, leaving no trace on the former host computers.
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