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Massive cyber attack on Middle East

By Kevin Rawlinson

A massive cyber attack against Middle Eastern nations capable of sweeping up huge amounts of sensitive data has been discovered by security researchers who said it was most likely a state-sponsored spying attempt.

Researchers at a Russian security firm which announced its findings on the so-called Flame software yesterday, said it was the most complex ever discovered and could have been in operation for as long as five years.

More than 600 computers belonging to governments, businesses and individuals in Iran, Israel and Palestinian territories, as well as Sudan and Syria, were affected. It is not known where the attack originated but its discovery — just two years after security experts uncovered the Stuxnet virus, which attacked the Iranian nuclear infrastructure — raises fresh questions over alleged government use of malicious software to spy on foreign nations.

Flame is the third ‘super cyberweapon’ to come to light after Stuxnet and the latter's data-stealing cousin, Duqu, which was found by Hungarian researchers last year. “If Flame went undiscovered for five years, the only conclusion is that there are other operations that we don't know about,” said Roel Schouwenberg, senior researcher with Kaspersky Lab, which made the discovery.

Eugene Kaspersky, Kaspersky Lab chief executive, claimed Flame was the latest phase in a cyber war between nations. “Such cyber weapons can easily be used against any country,” he said.

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