In comments that could be construed as suggesting that Israel is behind the "Flame" virus, the latest piece of malicious software to attack Iranian computers, Vice Premier Moshe Ya'alon on Tuesday said that "whoever sees the Iranian threat as a serious threat would be likely to take different steps, including these, in order to hurt them."
Speaking in an interview with Army Radio, Ya'alon further hinted that Jerusalem was behind the cyber attack, saying "Israel is blessed to be a nation possessing superior technology. These achievements of ours open up all kinds of possibilities for us."
The virus, dubbed “Flame,” effectively turns every computer it infects into the ultimate spy. It can turn on PC microphones to record conversations taking place near the computer, take screenshots, log instant messaging chats, gather data files and remotely change settings on computers.
Security experts from the Russian Kaspersky Lab, who announced Flame’s discovery on Monday, said it is found in its highest concentration in Iranian computers. It can also be found in other Middle Eastern locations, including Israel, the West Bank, Syria and Sudan.
The virus has been active for as long as five years, as part of a sophisticated cyber warfare campaign, the experts said.
It is the most complex piece of malicious software discovered to date, according to Kaspersky Lab’s senior security researcher Roel Schouwenberg, who said he did not know who built Flame.
If the Lab’s analysis is correct, Flame could be the third major cyber weapon directed against Iran, after the Stuxnet virus that attacked Iran’s nuclear program in 2010, and its data-stealing cousin Duqu.
The complexity of the latest 'Flame' virus bears the hallmarks of a program engineered by a state, a number of Israeli computer experts believe.
As details of Flame filtered through the media, network security experts in Israel, requesting anonymity, studied the initial reports, and indicated that they believed small groups of hackers could not be behind the virus.
"This is not a couple of hackers who sat in a basement," one expert said. "This is a large, organized system. It is possible that years were invested in creating it."
A second analyst said that viruses at this level of sophistication require major capabilities and knowledge of code development, noting that "these are available only to states. And that's without mentioning a motive for developing [such a program]."
Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.