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Flame, “the Most Powerful Virus to Date”
Flame is a computer virus that Tehran says is infecting its computers and which independent experts say is the most powerful virus yet seen. The virus appears to be a major escalation in the cyber war that some governments, concerned by Iran nuclear program, are suspected of waging against Tehran to sabotage its progress.

The virus infects computers in order to spy on users, steal classified information, and cause the mass deletion of data. It does this by sniffing network traffic, taking screenshots, recording audio conversations, and intercepting keyboard activity. The data it collects is relayed back to the virus creators. The virus is 100 times more complex than normal PC viruses, and designed to steal information – it can even turn on microphones on infected PCs to listen to conversations and tap into Bluetooth connections to infiltrate contacts.

The computers, Flame is targeting in Iran and what damage it has done so far is unknown. Iranian experts discovered the virus on computers in the Iranian Oil Ministry and National Oil Company in recent months and it only became publicly known this week after Tehran asked a UN agency to help investigate. The agency asked a private Russian antivirus software company, Kaspersky  Lab in Moscow, to look into the virus and the laboratory publicly described it as "one of the most complex threats ever discovered.”

Flame may also be one of the sneakiest bits of malware or malevolent software ever found. It has been reported that Flame has infected computers in Iran and the Kaspersky Lab has also detected it on the computers of some of its customers in Middle Eastern countries -- Israel, the Palestinian territories, Egypt, Sudan, and Syria.

Iran has sustained 185 Flame virus infections, followed by 95 in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, 32 in Sudan and 29 in Syria. It also has been found on some computers in Hungary, presumably with connections to the Middle East. But all indications are that the infections are targeted attacks for a specific purpose.

In the latest update on Kaspersky analysis of the virus, released late June 4, the firms chief security expert, Alexander Gostev, said the malware creators had focused on file formats such as PDF and AutoCAD, software for computer design and drawing. The malware also goes through PDF and text files and other documents and makes short text summaries. It also hunts for e-mails and many different kinds of other interesting (high-value) files that are specified in the malware configuration.

The U.N has also issued what it calls the most serious cyber warning it has ever put out. And, the Iranian government says it has it under control, having developed a "removal tool." Though, the virus has been active since August 2010, says Kaspersky Lab, plus lots of damage has already been done, with the Iranian statement saying massive amounts of data have already been lost. Boldizsar Bencsath, a computer expert at Budapest University Laboratory of Cryptography and Systems Security, says "This tool is used for targeted attacks; that means that normal home computers most likely are not at any risk."

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