US fears being infected by it’s own virus

This screen grab taken by the Kaspersky Lab site shows a program of the computer virus known as Flame. Picture: AFP

  •     US warns company’s about Flame virus
  •     Claims it was developed by US to infect Iran
  •     No country is safe from the Flame virus

AP | Jun 4, 2012

THE Obama administration is warning US businesses about an unusually potent computer virus that has infected Iran’s oil industry, amid suspicions Washington is responsible for secretly creating and unleashing cyberweapons against foreign countries.

The US government’s dual roles of alerting American companies about these threats and producing powerful software weapons and eavesdropping systems underscore the risks of an unintended online boomerang.

A cyberweapon that spreads across the internet may circle back accidentally to infect computers it was never supposed to target.

The US Homeland Security Department’s warning about the new virus, known as Flame, told American companies no infections had been discovered inside the US so far. It described Flame as an espionage tool that was sophisticated in design, using encryption and other techniques to help break into computers and move through corporate or private networks.

Suspicions about the US government’s role in the use of cyberweapons were heightened by reports of another sophisticated virus, known as Stuxnet, that attacked the computer systems of Iran’s main nuclear facilities.

Stuxnet is believed to have been developed by the CIA in conjunction with the Israeli government, Idaho National Laboratory and other US agencies, sources say.

The covert CIA program includes drone surveillance and cyberspying on Iranian scientists.

“It’s part of a larger campaign,” said a former senior US official. “It’s a preferable alternative to airstrikes.”

The US and its allies accuse Iran of operating its nuclear power program as a cover to develop atomic weapons, a charge Iran denies.

Israel has admitted to cyberwarfare but not claimed responsibility to specific viruses such as Stuxnet or Flame.

The confession appeared on the Israeli Military’s website on the weekend in a list of their goals and methods.

“The IDF has been engaged in cyber activity consistently and relentlessly,” said the statement, which detailed a role of cyber warfare as “thwarting and disrupting enemy projects” targeting the Israeli military and government.

Throughout the administrations of President Barack Obama and his predecessor, George W. Bush, the US has used a cyberwar campaign, code-named Olympic Games, to attack the Iranian program.

The first stage of the US effort involved inserting “beacons” into the computers running the control systems used in Iran’s Natanz nuclear enrichment facility, former officials said.

Beaconing is a technique US cyberwar operators use to electronically map and monitor the computer systems they infiltrate.

“The US hi-tech campaign against Iran includes the Stuxnet worm and cyberspying,” the former senior official said.

After the successful beacon operation, the US National Security Agency teamed up with its Israeli counterparts to develop the attack code that would become known as Stuxnet. It was introduced into the Iranian system via a flash drive.

The Stuxnet worm was discovered by researchers in 2010 after it was inadvertently released on the internet and turned up in computer systems in several countries, including Iran.


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