A cyber-attack on a scale never before seen was recently discovered by the Russian cyber security firm Kaspersky. The cyber-attack, dubbed “Flame,” targeted not only businesses and universities but also Middle Eastern governments including Israel and Iran. According to Kaspersky, Flame is bigger than the infamous predecessors Stuxnet and Duqu and described it as the “most complex threat” ever discovered.
In an extensive blog post Karpesky’s Aexander Gostev said that Flame “redefines the notion of cyber-war and cyber-espionage.” Rather than a piece of malware designed for single use, Flame is an attack toolkit and has the ability to relay back just about anything requested of it.
What’s interesting about Flame is that it doesn’t attack only the computer system it invades but also the wireless devices within close proximity. According to professor Alex Woodward of the University of Surrey’s Department of Computing one of the more complex and alarming features of this new malware is that it can scan for nearby Bluetooth devices from which to steal information. It is even capable of using the device’s microphone and take screenshots of any windows currently open on the computer’s screen.
Kaspersky named Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria and a few others as having been infected by the “virus.” But the company’s Roel Schouwenberg who discovered the malware, stated that Flame was “highly targeted” and directed at businesses and universities as well.
The attack is so far-reaching and complex that experts believe that it could only have been implemented through governmental backing. So this begs the question, which government? This newly discovered malware, if truly developed by a government, would succinctly represent the rise in importance of information for government discussions. No longer is it necessarily military might that wins the argument. Information is the new atom bomb and the discovery of highly sophisticated malware, such as Flame, lends itself very well to the thought that governments still have much to hide… and to steal from one another.