News / Middle East

Iran Says It Can Destroy Data-Stealing Virus

A U.S. cyber warfare expert works on his laptop computer, December 1, 2011.A U.S. cyber warfare expert works on his laptop computer, December 1, 2011.
A U.S. cyber warfare expert works on his laptop computer, December 1, 2011.
A U.S. cyber warfare expert works on his laptop computer, December 1, 2011.
The Iranian government said Tuesday it has produced an antivirus program capable of fighting what computer experts are calling "the most sophisticated cyber weapon yet unleashed."

The data-stealing virus has been infecting computers in Iran and other parts of the Middle East.

Iran's Computer Emergency Response Team Coordination Center (CERTCC) said Tuesday the antivirus tool can identify and remove the sophisticated spyware, identified a day earlier by a Russian Internet security company. The Iranian ministry did not say if the virus had done any damage.

Fast Facts: The "Flame" Virus

  • Most sophisticated malicious software ever discovered.
  • Can record sounds, access Bluetooth, capture screen shot images and log conversations
  • Uses a network of 80 servers across Asia, Europe and North America to access infected machines.
  • Iran had the largest number of infected computers
  • 1,000 to 5,000 machines infected worldwide.

Source: Kaspersky Lab
Russia's Kaspersky Lab dubbed the virus "Flame" and described it as a malicious program whose "complexity and functionality exceed those of all other cyber menaces known to date." It said the virus has stolen information from computers in Iran, Israel and other parts of the region.

In a separate report, the Hungarian Laboratory of Cryptography and System Security named the virus "sKyWIper" and said Hungarian computers also have been infected.

The spyware works by copying files and activating computer microphones to record conversations before sending the data through a series of servers to the program source.

No one has claimed responsibility for the computer attacks.

But Israeli Vice Premier Moshe Yaalon said Tuesday cyber weapons such as Flame are a "reasonable" tool for any nation trying to "hobble" the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran. He also said Israel is a "technologically rich" nation whose tools "open up all sorts of opportunities."

Tensions between Iran and Israel have increased steadily in recent months, as has speculation about a possible Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear sites. Iran says its controversial nuclear program is peaceful. But talks have been continuing with world powers to curb Iran's weapons capability.

Iran suffered a major cyberattack in 2010 when a virus known as Stuxnet knocked out computers at its nuclear facilities. Tehran has blamed the Stuxnet attack on Israel and the West, whom it accuses of trying to sabotage the Iranian nuclear program.

The head of science, technology and security at Tel Aviv University, Isaac Ben-Israel, said the Flame virus uses a different software language from Stuxnet, making it unlikely the two are related. He also said Flame is the largest virus of its kind ever detected with a file size of 20 megabytes.

Ben-Israel said Flame is not the most dangerous virus because it steals information rather than causing damage in the physical world.

"If you speak about danger, the real danger in using cyber technology is damaging computers which control physical systems like trains and power production," he said.

Ben-Israel said the virus appears to be the work of a government with sufficient resources to invest in gathering intelligence from the Middle East. He said 60 to 70 countries have such capabilities, but doubted the Israeli government is responsible because Israel is among the nations whose computers have been infected.

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

Video Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs