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May 29, 2012

Flame: A Cyber Weapon of Mass Destruction

By Julie Griffin, Contributing Writer

The description of the latest malware to hit the Middle East is chilling. The man responsible for discovering the malware that U.S. sources call "Flame," is Alexander Gostev of Russia’s Kapersky Lab, who suggests “the complexity and functionality of the newly discovered malicious program exceed those of all other cyber menaces known to date."

In an article entitled, “Flame: Lethal Cyber Weapon or Media Hype,” published by PC World, the author challenges the media by asking if Flame is indeed the most “insidious malware threat ever discovered, or simply a solid cyber attack that caught much of the industry with its proverbial pants down?”

The assumption that the malware is perhaps not as foreboding as the media would like us to believe stems from reports by Webroot, that Flame is actually just 2007 technology.

But the casual tone of Webroot isn’t shared by Gostev, who claims “it pretty much redefines the notion of cyberwar and cyberespionage.”

Gostev also traces the malware’s development as having a later start – 2010. Sources that credit Gostev’s understanding of the malware suggest the comparison of Flame to 2010’s Stuxnet might be for the fact that both types of malware target the Middle East.

Although it seems Gostev is apprehensive about identifying one country as the intended target, he revealed to the Associated Press (News - Alert) that Iran was by far more affected than other Middle Eastern countries, where the virus was detected – Israel, Palestinian territories, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Lebanon.

The Associated Press adds that Israeli officials “did little to deflect suspicion about possible Israeli involvement in the latest attack,” when questioned by media Tuesday.

What makes Flame different than other forms of malware is that it doesn’t tap into bank accounts. It’s also much more sophisticated than anything developed by hactivists. The virus unleashes 20 different modules after sneaking past security unscathed.

Edited by Braden Becker
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