Israel Hits the “Delete” Button on Iran

The Islamic loud mouth bully of a country known as Iran, is being brought to its knees…without firing a shot.

Iran on Tuesday said it was a victim of cyberwarfare by Israel and the U.S., the semiofficial Fars news agency reported.

“It’s in the nature of some countries and illegitimate regimes to spread viruses and harm other countries. We hope these viruses dry out,” Ramin Mehmanparast, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, said on Tuesday.

Iran’s computer emergency response team, known as Maher, a branch of the telecommunication ministry, said on Tuesday that it was sharing research information on the virus for the first time ever on its website. Maher posted a link to antivirus software developed by its researchers to remove Flame and offered assistance to any infected organization.

Maher also said Flame was linked to an earlier cyberattack that erased data. In March, Wiper disrupted internal Internet communications at Iran’s oil ministry and stole massive amounts of data.

Flame is the biggest and most high-functioning cyberweapon ever discovered, various cybersecurity experts said. It is comprised of multiple files that are 20 times larger than Stuxnet and carry about 100 times more code than a basic virus, experts said.

The most alarming feature, experts said, is that Flame can be highly versatile, depending on instructions by its controller. The malware can steal data and social-network conversations, take snapshots of computer screens, penetrate across networks, turn on a computer’s microphone to record audio and scan for Bluetooth-active devices.

The cyber espionage activities described by the researchers are cyberspying techniques employed by the U.S., Israel and a number of other countries, cybersecurity specialists said. Cybersecurity researchers said the complexity of Flame’s coding and comprehensiveness of its spy capabilities could suggest it was the work of a government.

Experts said they believe Flame reports back the information to a central command-and-control network that has constantly changed location. Analysts found servers in Germany, Vietnam, Turkey, Italy and elsewhere, but haven’t located the main server.

White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden declined to comment on Iranian accusations of U.S. involvement.

Analysts suspected Israel and the U.S. to be behind Stuxnet, but the link hasn’t been confirmed. U.S. officials have declined to comment on Stuxnet’s origins, but former U.S. officials said they regard it as a joint effort between the U.S. and Israel. That virus infected computers in several countries but was written to only sabotage specific systems in Iran, they said.

Stuxnet’s purpose differed considerably from the apparent aim of Flame. Stuxnet was designed to damage computerized control systems running nuclear centrifuges, while Flame appears to have been designed for high-end targeted espionage. Researchers haven’t found evidence of any damage to systems caused by Flame.

Israel has neither confirmed nor denied being involved with Stuxnet.

On Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya’Alon hinted that the country may be involved in Flame, saying in an interview with Army Radio, “Anyone who sees the Iranian threat as a significant threat—it’s reasonable [to assume] that he will take various steps, including these, to harm it.”

Wow.  Beam me up, Scotty.   

For the uninformed…

Cyberwarfare is Internet-based conflict involving politically motivated attacks on information and information systems. Cyberwarfare attacks can disable official websites and networks, disrupt or disable essential services, steal or alter classified data, and criple financial systems — among many other possibilities.

According to Jeffrey Carr, author of “Inside Cyber Warfare,” any country can wage cyberwar on any other country, irrespective of resources, because most military forces are network-centric and connected to the Internet, which is not secure. For the same reason, non-governmental groups and individuals could also launch cyberwarfare attacks. Carr likens the Internet’s enabling potential to that of the handgun, which became known as “the great equalizer.”

On August 7, 2011, foxnews.com reported that

Israel has set up a military cyber command to wage a computer war against Iran as senior officers become increasingly concerned that a conventional attack on Tehran’s nuclear sites could end in failure, London’s The Sunday Times reported.

The new cyber command will report directly to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu who has placed the program at the heart of Israel’s defense capability.

“Israel must turn into a global cyber superpower,” he told a meeting of cyber warfare experts recently.

The center, which has been set up under the auspices of military intelligence unit 8200 has already conducted a series of “soft” espionage missions, including hacking into Iran’s version of Facebook and other social networking sites.

The Stuxnet malware virus, which dramatically affected Iran’s nuclear program in 2009 by sabotaging the delicate centrifuges needed to enrich uranium, is widely believed to have been developed by Israeli and American technicians.

In April [2011], Iranian government offices came under attack from a hitherto unknown malware virus to which Tehran officials gave the name Stars. They claimed the damage had been contained but admitted it was the second mysterious virus found since the Stuxnet attack.

“Israel has two principal targets in Iran’s cyberspace,” said a defense source with close knowledge of the cyber war preparations. “The first is its military nuclear program and its military establishment. The second is Iran’s civil infrastructure. Attacking both, we hope, will cripple the entire country’s cyberspace.”

It appears that they’re well on their way.

Mazel tov!

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