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Israel and US were behind Flame malware

Reports suggest Flame and Stuxnet were just start of a new wave in cyber espionage

By Steve Evans

The highly sophisticated Flame malware was jointly created by the US and Israel to slow down Iran’s nuclear program, according to reports.

According to the Washing Post Flame was a joint effort between National Security Agency, the CIA and Israel’s military. The report cited "Western officials with knowledge of the effort."

Flame was designed by the US and Israel to slow Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon, the report says. It mapped and monitored Iran’s computer networks to gather sensitive information which was then sent back to the authors to help prepare for a cyberwarfare campaign.

"This is about preparing the battlefield for another type of covert action," The Washington Post quotes a former high-ranking US intelligence official as saying. The official added that Flame was just the start of the campaign and that cyber espionage against the Iranian nuclear program is "way further down the road."

The official also confirmed what previously been revealed by Kaspersky Lab – that the team behind Flame was also behind the Stuxnet malware, which also attacked Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The two bits of malware share code, according to Kaspersky Lab. "A module from the early 2009-version of Stuxnet, known as "Resource 207," was actually a Flame plug-in. This means that when the Stuxnet worm was created in the beginning of 2009, the Flame platform already existed, and that in 2009, the source code of at least one module of Flame was used in Stuxnet," the company said.

The New York Times had previously revealed that US president Barack Obama ordered Stuxnet to be deployed as part of an increase in the use of cyber espionage against Iran.

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Flame was discovered in May this year by Kaspersky Lab and Symantec. It was described at the time as "one of the most complex threats ever discovered. It’s big and incredibly sophisticated. It pretty much redefines the notion of cyberwar and cyber-espionage."

At the time researchers at Kaspersky said something that complex could only have been created with government backing, although they did not go as far as naming any nations.

More recently, a high-ranking Israeli politician hinted that his country was behind Flame, claiming that "Whoever sees the Iranian threat as a significant threat is likely to take various steps, including these, to hobble it. Israel is blessed with high technology, and these tools that we take pride in open up all kinds of opportunities for us."

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