New data-stealing virus exposed
Security experts have discovered a data-stealing virus dubbed "Flame" that, they say, has lurked inside thousands of computers across the Middle East for as long as five years as part of a smart cyber warfare campaign.
It is the most complex piece of malicious software discovered to date, said Kaspersky Lab senior security researcher Roel Schouwenberg, whose company discovered the virus.
The results of the company's work were made available yesterday.
Schouwenberg said he did not know who built Flame.
If the company's analysis is correct, Flame would be the third major cyber weapon uncovered after the Stuxnet virus, which attacked Iran's nuclear programme in 2010, and its data-stealing cousin, Duqu.
The discovery is likely to fuel speculation that nations have already secretly deployed other cyber weapons.
"If Flame was undiscovered for five years, the only logical conclusion is that there are other operations that we don't know about," Schouwenberg said.
Kaspersky's research shows that most of the infected machines are in Iran, and the Israel/Palestine region, Sudan and Syria.
The virus can steal data files, change settings on computers, and turn on PC microphones to record conversations.