Flame virus was created by American and Israeli intelligence

Molly Wood Jun 21, 2012

Flame is a malicious computer program that was recently found to be spying on computers in Iran.

When we first told you about it last month, we pointed out that it was so sophisticated experts doubted that it could be the work of an individual hacker. It had the markings of a government operation. But which government?

Ellen Nakashima has been following the trail of Flame for the Washington Post and in a recent article says signs point to Washington. “Flame was a piece of malware developed jointly by the United States and Israel to map out the computer networks of Iran in preparation for a broader series of potential attacks that could also include sabotage.”

That sabotage was likely meant to come from the Stuxnet worm, identified a couple years ago, which wreaked havoc with Iran’s nuclear program. Flame has reportedly been on undercover assignment since 2007. So what had American and Israeli intelligence actually assigned Flame to do?

Kim Zetter has been covering Flame for Wired. She says, “There are parts of it that will turn on the microphone inside computers to spy on conversations. One part will take screen shots of communications that are occurring on the machine, and there’s one part that will turn on the Bluetooth of the computer in order to use it as a beacon to contact other Bluetooth devices in the vicinity such as cell phones and siphon the contact information from the phones.”

Zetter says at the time Flame was discovered, its creators in the U.S. and Israel weren’t doing all that much to keep it hidden. “They took a lot of risks; they were quite bold in the way they were unleashing this, and it may be in some cases that they didn’t care that they got caught.”

Having identified Flame, Iran is now better prepared for future threats, says Nakashima.

Nakashima: Now once they know about it, they’re able to start taking counter measures against the malware, and that could shut down a potential source of intelligence

Moe: Is Flame as far as you know dead now?

Nakashima: Well, there are patches out there for Flame that various anti-virus companies have put out. Iran claims that it has patched Flame, or that it can do no more damage work. But, the people who make malware can always make modifications. they have the advantage.

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