Vice PM Ya’alon hints Israel involved in ‘Flame’ cyber attack

Recruits try out for the IDF's computer warfare division. (Flash90)

JERUSALEM (JWN and agencies)—A powerful new computer virus known as Flame, revealed on Monday by the Internet security company Kaspersky, is said to have infected computers in Iran and certain Arab countries. Although it operates differently, its effect in the cyber war against Iran is being compared to the Stuxnet bug that crippled Iranian centrifuges in 2010.

Fingers immediately began pointing in Israel’s direction as somehow being involved in lighting the Flame, but officials were careful not to comment on the situation—until Tuesday. Then Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon gave a remarkably candid interview on Army Radio, saying that such steps as Flame are “reasonable” given the Iranian threat.

“Anyone who sees the Iranian threat as a significant threat–it’s reasonable that he will take various steps, including these, to harm it,” said Ya’alon, who is also strategic affairs minister. “Israel is blessed as being a country rich with hi-tech. These tools that we take pride in open up all kinds of opportunities for us,” he added.

Kaspersky’s experts said the complexity of Flame indicates it was produced by a state. Unlike Stuxnet, which was designed to cause damage, Flame aims to collect information by transferring files, screenshots, audio recordings, and keystrokes from infected computers.

Ilan Proimovich, Kaspersky’s representative in Israel, told Army Radio that the worm “does not operate independently, but is controlled by a remote computer, and thus only when it receives an order does it start working. For this reason, it is difficult to detect, because it is not always active.” He called it a “masterpiece of programming.”

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