May 31st, 2012 by Lucy Brandt
One of the most powerful and complicated pieces of malware ever devised has been revealed over the last week by researchers at Kaspersky Labs.Â The Flame malware (also known by researchers as Viper or sKyWIper) has been attacking computers belonging to businesses and governments across the Middle East, for as long as five years.
Flame is a hugely sophisticated attack toolkit that leaves a Trojan on computers and can propagate itself through a local network, just like a computer worm. However, the level of complexity suggests that Flame was almost certainly developed with state-sponsorship, creating something of a political storm.
So what exactly does Flame do? According to Neil J Rebenking at PC Mag, “you might better ask what doesn’t it do. Just about any kind of espionage you can imagine is handled by one of Flamer’s modules. Among other things, McAfee’s researchers found that it can report on network resources, steal specific files, detect and evade over 100 security products, capture screens, record audio through the built-in microphone, explore nearby Bluetooth connections, and more.”
The US and Israel have been accused of developing Flame, an accusation which both countries vehemently deny.Â But with Iran allegedly one of the main targets of the malware, it certainly seems to echo Stuxnet, and may be another battle in the ongoing campaign to prevent the country developing nuclear weapons.
Should this be a worry to individuals and businesses?Â Well according to Elinor Mills at CNET:Â “Most of the major antivirus software now detects Flame, so updating your security software will protect you. Kaspersky also has offered tips for manually removing the malware. The software is not designed to steal financial data and does not seem targeted at consumers, so chances are your computer is safe.
Which is a relief, although the rise of cyber-espionage in general, particularly around the energy industry, will be giving governments never-ending sleepless nights.Â One last roundup from Kevin Fogarty at IT World brilliantly condenses the key risks for organisations and is well worth a read.