While the US was recognizing the Memorial Day holiday on Monday, the Middle East was busy tracking reports of a potentially serious cyber attack spying on its systems.

Security researchers at Kaspersky Lab, in conjunction with an investigation by the International Telecommunication Union, announced this week that they had discovered “a highly sophisticated malicious program that is actively being used as a cyber weapon attacking entities in several countries.”

Identified as “Worm.Win32.Flame” and dubbed “Flame” for short, the malware was reportedly developed as a cyber espionage tool against Iran and several other countries in the Middle East, functioning undetected for over two years.

But the news may come as no surprise to those who remember Duqu and Stuxnet, two other malicious viruses previously targeting Iran and, more specifically, its nuclear program.

According to the Kaspersky researchers, while Flame differs in some regards from Duqu and Stuxnet, “the geography of attacks, use of specific software vulnerabilities, and the fact that only selected computers are being targeted all indicate that Flame belongs to the same category of super-cyberweapons.”

Learning of the potential link, Iran wasted no time in pointing fingers at nation-state developers believed to be behind the attack, with the country’s Fars News Agency claiming, ‘The US and Israel have made repeated attempts in the last several years to damage Iran’s nuclear and industrial sites through web infiltration and computer malwares.”

And while previous reports have linked the US and Israel to the Duqu and Stuxnet viruses, Israel again took to the media this week to deny its part in the deployment of Flame. However, an interview given by the country’s Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon may have done more harm than good, further raising suspicions of Israel being behind the attack.

“Israel is blessed to be a nation possessing superior technology,” Ya’alon said in a statement, as reported by BBC News. “These achievements of ours open up all kinds of possibilities for us.”

“I would imagine that everyone who sees the Iranian nuclear threat as a significant one, and that is not only Israel, it is 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.”

Meanwhile, back in the States, security experts told NBC News that the malware “bears the hallmarks of a US cyber espionage operation, specifically that of the super-secret National Security Agency.”

According to the report, US intelligence officials have declined to comment on the matter.

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Michelle Kincaid is a DC-based public affairs professional specializing in technology policy. She is creator of the blog CybersecurityNews.org.
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