The United States and Israel jointly developed the sophisticated Flame computer virus that collected critical intelligence in preparation for cyber-sabotage attacks aimed at slowing Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday.
The report was based on conversations with Western officials with knowledge of the effort.
The officials told The Washington Post that Flame was designed to secretly map Iran’s computer networks and monitor the computers of Iranian officials, sending back a steady stream of intelligence used to enable an ongoing cyberwarfare campaign.
The effort, which involved the National Security Agency, the CIA and Israel’s military, has included the use of destructive software such as the Stuxnet virus to cause malfunctions in Iran’s nuclear enrichment equipment, the report said.
Flame, one of the most sophisticated and subversive pieces of malware exposed to date, was designed to replicate across even highly secure networks, then control everyday computer functions to send a flow of secrets back to its creators, experts told The Washington Post.
The code could activate computer microphones and cameras, log keyboard strokes, take computer screen shots, extract geolocation data from images and send and receive commands and data through Bluetooth wireless technology. It was designed to do all this while masquerading as a routine Microsoft software update, the report noted.
Iran admitted that its oil industry was briefly affected by Flame, but claimed that Iranian experts had detected and defeated the virus.
Last week, security researchers said that they have found a direct link between the Stuxnet worm and Flame, indicating that the two teams cooperated and collaborated.
After Flame was discovered, U.S. computer security researchers said that it had gotten orders to vanish, leaving no trace.