The widely-reported Flame virus, which tore through computers in the Middle East and Africa, was created jointly by the United States and Israel, intelligence officials have said.
The virus was identified by security firm the Kaspersky Lab in 2010, but rose to prominence more recently as details emerged over how and where the malware had spread.
With Kaspersky claiming the attacks were almost certainly state-sponsored and reports showing Iran being the most frequent victim, many commentators had pointed to the US and Israel as likely perpetrators of the attacks, and a high-rank American intelligence official has now confirmed suspicions to the Washington Post.
"This is about preparing the battlefield for another type of covert action," said the source, who admitted that both Flame and the similar Stuxnet virus were just two components of a full-scale technological assault on the Islamic Republic. "Cyber-collection against the Iranian program is way further down the road than this," they added.
Reports of the collaboration, which involves the CIA, National Security Agency and the Israeli military, comes just weeks after Israel's government denied responsibility for the malware. But passing the buck on to other nations, the vice prime minister Moshe Ya'alon claimed that the "entire Western world, headed by the United States of America, would likely take every single measure available, including these, to harm the Iranian nuclear project".
The Flame malware has been described as one of the most sophisticated viruses ever discovered. Crafted for espionage, the program infects computers and controls everyday functions to send information back to the creators. Masked as a routine Microsoft software update, its code can activate computer microphones and cameras, log keyboard strokes, take screen shots, extract location details from images and send and receive commands through Bluetooth technology.
The US and Israel hope to stunt Iran's nuclear program through the attacks, as cybercrime takes on ever-increasing significance in international diplomacy.
Source: Washington Post