Feeds

Flame was scout ahead of Stuxnet attack on Iran nukes - US spooks

Israel blamed for cyberweapons' escape into the wild

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Flame was created by the US and Israel in order to collect intelligence on Iranian computer networks as part of the same covert operation that spawned Stuxnet.

Anonymous US officials told the Washington Post that Flame was created as part of of the secret programme codenamed Olympic Games. Flame was designed as a means to map Iranian networks, as part of a reconnaissance mission to map closed computer networks that served as a prelude to the sabotage of systems at Uranium nuclear enrichment facilities carried out by Stuxnet.

The news that the US and Israel were behind Flame follows weeks after a similar confirmation that the two countries cooked up Stuxnet. Neither revelation came as a particular surprise since both strains of malware bore the hallmarks of a state-sponsored attack, cooked up by intelligence agencies or perhaps military sub-contractors rather than anything that might have been developed by either cybercrooks or politically-motivated hacktivists.

Flame was developed around five years ago as part of a classified US-Israeli effort designed to slow down Iran’s nuclear programme, reducing the pressure for a conventional military attack that would undoubtedly inflame tension in the Middle East.

Stuxnet and Flame are both elements of a broader and ongoing cyber-assault, one former high-ranking U.S. intelligence official told the Washington Post. Although Stuxnet and Flame can be countered "it doesn’t mean that other tools aren’t in play or performing effectively," he said.

Key agencies in the development of Stuxnet included the CIA’s Information Operations Center, the NSA and an Israel Defence Forces intelligence formation known as Unit 8200.

However despite working together to develop "cyberweapons" the US and Israel have not always co-ordinated their attacks. The Washington Post sources blame assaults on Iran’s Oil Ministry and oil-export facilities launched by Israel in April for the discovery of Flame. Israel was also blamed for changes in Stuxnet that meant it spread from the compromised laptop of an Iranian nuclear technician onto the internet.

Intelligence agencies from both Israel and the US are also using more conventional spycraft to screw up the supply of hi-tech components necessary to sustain Iran's controversial nuclear program, for example by making sure the high speed centrifuges supplied to the country are often faulty.

Last week, researchers with Kaspersky Lab reported that Flame was created by a group that must have collaborated with whoever created Stuxnet. A component in an early build of Stuxnet appears in Flame as a plugin. Despite this link Stuxnet and Flame are not close relatives. However Stuxnet uses the same programming building blocks as Duqu, another information stealing cyberweapon.

Neither the US or Israel has claimed responsibility for the creation of Duqu, as yet. ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
Hello, police, El Reg here. Are we a bunch of terrorists now?
Do Brits risk arrest for watching beheading video nasty? We asked the fuzz
UK fuzz want PINCODES on ALL mobile phones
Met Police calls for mandatory passwords on all new mobes
Munich considers dumping Linux for ... GULP ... Windows!
Give a penguinista a hug, the Outlook's not good for open source's poster child
EU justice chief blasts Google on 'right to be forgotten'
Don't pretend it's a freedom of speech issue – interim commish
Detroit losing MILLIONS because it buys CHEAP BATTERIES – report
Man at hardware store was right: name brands DO last longer
Snowden on NSA's MonsterMind TERROR: It may trigger cyberwar
Plus: Syria's internet going down? That was a US cock-up
UK government accused of hiding TRUTH about Universal Credit fiasco
'Reset rating keeps secrets on one-dole-to-rule-them-all plan', say MPs
Caught red-handed: UK cops, PCSOs, specials behaving badly… on social media
No Mr Fuzz, don't ask a crime victim to be your pal on Facebook
e-Borders fiasco: Brits stung for £224m after US IT giant sues UK govt
Defeat to Raytheon branded 'catastrophic result'
Yes, but what are your plans if a DRAGON attacks?
Local UK gov outs most ridiculous FoI requests...
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.