Iran’s key oil industry was briefly affected by the powerful computer virus known as Flame, that has unprecedented data-snatching capabilities and can eavesdrop on computer users, a senior Iranian military official said Wednesday, according to The Associated Press.
The comment is the first direct link between the emergence of the new malware and an attack inside a highly sensitive computer system in Iran, which counts on oil revenue for 80 per cent of its income.
According to AP, Gholam Reza Jalali, who heads an Iranian military unit in charge of fighting sabotage, claimed that Iranian experts had detected and defeated the Flame virus. He told state radio that the oil industry was the only governmental body seriously affected and that all data that had been lost were retrieved.
“This virus penetrated some fields,” Jalali was quoted as having said. “One of them was the oil sector. Fortunately, we detected and controlled this single incident. We could also retrieve the information that was lost.”
He claimed that there has been no report of any other governmental agency being affected by the virus.
Ali Hakim Javadi, Iran’s deputy Minister of Communications and Information Technology, was quoted by the official IRNA news agency as saying Wednesday that Iranian experts have already produced an anti-virus capable of identifying and removing Flame from computers.
Javadi said the Computer Center “has produced an anti-virus capable of detecting and removing the Flame for the first time in the world. The anti-virus software was delivered to selected organizations in early May.”
Flame struck not only Iran, but a number of other enemies of Israel as well. The Kaspersky Internet security firm called the data-stealing virus the “most sophisticated cyber-weapon yet unleashed” and hinted it may have been created by the makers of the Stuxnet worm.
Kaspersky called the virus a “cyber-espionage worm” designed to collect and delete sensitive information, primarily in Middle Eastern countries.
It is not known who was behind the virus, but Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon appeared to hint in a radio interview Tuesday that Israel is behind the malware.
Asked about the attack, Ya'alon told IDF Radio: “Whoever sees the Iranian threat as a meaningful threat – it is reasonable he would take various measures, including this one.”
“Israel has been blessed with being a state rich in top level high-tech. These tools that we take pride in open up various possibilities for us,” he added.
The semi-official Iranian news agency Fars seized upon Ya’alon's statements as proof that Israel engineered the Flame virus.
“The Vice Prime Minister of the Zionist regime admitted the role of the regime in creating the virus Flame for cyber espionage in the Middle East, and especially in Iran,” Fars stated. "Moshe Ya’alon's statements today are an additional confirmation of Israel's role in developing the malicious program.”