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Cyber ‘superweapon’ virus uncovered

MOSCOW, May 29 – A top Russian anti-virus software firm said it had uncovered a new computer virus with unprecedented destructive potential which is being used as a “cyberweapon” against several countries.

Kaspersky Lab, one of the world’s biggest producers of anti-virus software, said its experts discovered the virus — known as Flame — during an investigation prompted by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

It said that the virus was several times larger than the Stuxnet worm that was discovered in 2010 and was used against the Iranian nuclear programme, reportedly at the behest of Western security agencies.

Flame is “actively being used as a cyber weapon attacking entities in several countries,” Kaspersky said in a statement late on Monday, describing its purpose as “cyberespionage”.

“The complexity and functionality of the newly discovered malicious programme exceed those of all other cyber menaces known to date,” it added.

According to Kaspersky, Flame “can steal valuable information, including but not limited to computer display contents, information about targeted systems, stored files, contact data and even audio conversations.”

It did not say which country the virus was aimed at but said the investigation was initiated after a series of incidents with a still unknown virus which deleted data on computers in the “Western Asia” region.

The statement also contained no clues over which party could have been behind the attack.

According to Western media reports, Flame has been used to attack the Iranian oil ministry and Iran’s main oil export terminal.

Kaspersky said Flame had been “in the wild” for more than two years, since March 2010.

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“Due to its extreme complexity, plus the targeted nature of the attacks, no security software detected it.”

Flame is “one of the most advanced and complete attack-toolkits ever discovered.”

It said that Flame belongs to the same category as previous superworms like Duqu or Stuxnet.

“The Flame malware looks to be another phase in this war and it’s important to understand that such cyber weapons can easily be used against any country,” said Kaspersky Lab CEO Eugene Kaspersky.

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