Israel on ‘Flame’ Virus: It Wasn’t Us

(Ping! Zine Web Tech Magazine) – Many commentators in the tech community have speculated who might be behind the high-profile ‘Flame’ virus detailed in a report from Kaspersky Lab earlier this week. While no specific culprit was mentioned in Kaspersky’s study, the security company did admit it likely originated from an unknown nation state.

The virus itself was known to infect computer systems primarily in Iran. Capable of secretly gathering loads of information, the security company referred to the virus threat as “the most sophisticated cyber weapon yet unleashed.”

So exactly which nation state could be behind it? Simple guessing would immediately point to a western nation state or one of its allies often at odds with Iran’s nuclear proliferation activities. Well, you can possibly remove western ally Israel from the suspect list. An Israeli government representative told the BBC that Israel wasn’t involved with ‘Flame’ despite previous comments made on the matter by Vice-Primer Minister Moshe Ya’alon.

Speaking to Israel’s Army Radio, Ya’alon seemed to sympathize with the virus’s possible intentions. “I would imagine that everyone who sees the Iranian nuclear threat as a significant one, and that is not only Israel, it is the entire Western world, headed by the United States of America, would likely take every single measure available, including these, to harm the Iranian nuclear project,” commented Ya’alon, according to the BBC.

However, the Vice-Prime Minister’s comments were in no way an admission that Israel was involved, something the government representative emphasized to the BBC. “There was no part of the interview where the minister has said anything to imply that Israel was responsible for the virus,” stated the spokesperson in the report.

Explaining the virus on Tuesday, Kaspersky Lab Expert Aleks commented, “Once a system is infected, Flame begins a complex set of operations, including sniffing the network traffic, taking screenshots, recording audio conversations, intercepting the keyboard, and so on. All this data is available to the operators through the link to Flame’s command-and-control servers.”

Iran has since downplayed the virus’s effect on computer systems in the Islamic Republic, recently saying that it had released a fix for the problem. However, Iranian military member Gholam Reza did admit it hit the country’s oil industry. “This virus penetrated some fields. One of them was the oil sector. Fortunately, we detected and controlled this single incident,”: commented Jalali in an AP story.

Flame is notable for having similarities to the previously detailed Stuxnet worm, a virus notable for temporarily disabling Iran’s nuclear computer system.