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Flame: The Massive Stuxnet-Level Malware Sweeping the Middle East 224

Posted by samzenpus
from the new-bad-guy dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Wired is reporting on a massive, highly sophisticated piece of malware has been newly found infecting systems in Iran and elsewhere and is believed to be part of a well-coordinated, ongoing, state-run cyberespionage operation. Kaspersky Lab, the company that discovered the malware, has a FAQ with more details."
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Flame: The Massive Stuxnet-Level Malware Sweeping the Middle East

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  • Kaspersky Again (Score:5, Interesting)

    by matty619 (630957) on Monday May 28, 2012 @03:48PM (#40136869)

    Is it coincidence that a Russian security firm keeps finding these clandestine state-sponsored Middle-eastern directed malware? Or are US and European security firms simply instructed to look the other way? /tinfoilhat

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mpoulton (689851)
      In my opinion, Us, European, and Russian security firms should ALL be looking the other way and keeping their mouths shut. Once it's reasonably clear that a piece of malware is an espionage tool directed at our mutual targets of intelligence interest, and that it doesn't pose a general threat to our own information security, they should keep it to themselves. There's nothing patriotic, altruistic, laudable, or beneficial about screwing up legitimate national intelligence projects. This ain't a scandal, c
      • Re:Kaspersky Again (Score:5, Insightful)

        by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Monday May 28, 2012 @04:03PM (#40136957)

        What about keeping the general population informed about what the world is up to? You know, so that the electorate can make electoral decisions based on actual information rather than fear-mongering? Or is this just an outdated concept, and we should let our politicians just tell us what we should worry about?

        • Re:Kaspersky Again (Score:5, Insightful)

          by mpoulton (689851) on Monday May 28, 2012 @04:15PM (#40137031)
          Should the details of the latest stealth aircraft technology be publicly disclosed so voters can make informed decisions? The latest in radar-absorbing paint, if it exists in a usable form? Nuclear weapon design details (the important details, not the general info that's already public)? Every detail of the President's personal security? Come on. Some things are relevant enough to the political process that voters must be informed. Other things are not, and secrecy is critically important for some of them.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by NeutronCowboy (896098)

            Holy crap dude - can you understand the difference between understanding what your opponents are up to, and technical details and specs of your gadgetry? One is something that is crucial towards formulating an effective strategy, the other is crucial to formulating battlefield tactics. I'm sure you can figure out which is which.

          • Should the details of the latest stealth aircraft technology be publicly disclosed so voters can make informed decisions? The latest in radar-absorbing paint, if it exists in a usable form? Nuclear weapon design details (the important details, not the general info that's already public)? Every detail of the President's personal security? Come on. Some things are relevant enough to the political process that voters must be informed. Other things are not, and secrecy is critically important for some of them.

            The answer to the first one anyway is "yes" -- assuming that it's not your country who's working on it. While all the security companies have a US presence, most are global in scope, and a sizeable portion of their customers are not in the US.

          • Re:Kaspersky Again (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 28, 2012 @04:30PM (#40137125)

            Should the details of the latest stealth aircraft technology be publicly disclosed so voters can make informed decisions? The latest in radar-absorbing paint, if it exists in a usable form? Nuclear weapon design details (the important details, not the general info that's already public)? Every detail of the President's personal security? Come on. Some things are relevant enough to the political process that voters must be informed. Other things are not, and secrecy is critically important for some of them.

            Ok I'll say it. If you don't want something to go public DON'T post it on the internet.
            Stealth technology is fucking secret. You don't see the details on the internet do you ?
            Secret is secret, putting something on the internet is everything except secret.

          • Re:Kaspersky Again (Score:5, Interesting)

            by spazdor (902907) on Monday May 28, 2012 @04:47PM (#40137231)

            Should the details of the latest stealth aircraft technology be publicly disclosed so voters can make informed decisions?

            If the latest stealth aircraft is designed to break into civilians' homes and hide there, then, um, yes. Yes they should.

          • Re:Kaspersky Again (Score:5, Insightful)

            by flaming error (1041742) on Monday May 28, 2012 @04:51PM (#40137251) Journal

            Liberty is less threatened by foreign evildoers than by domestic injustice. Laws that stack the deck, and laws that are selectively enforced, are what any lovers of freedom should fear.

            It's not secret technology that protects us. Freedom's only hope is a people that won't take crap from their government.

            I think armed revolution would be a stupid and counterproductive idea. But bloodless or bloody, technical tactical details of the hardware we've bought with our own money could be handy to know.

            Of course it's not as simple as I portray it, but progress and freedom depend on transparency, warfare and tyranny depend on secrecy. When so much is secret, even our laws, we must ask ourselves if our priorities are straight.

            • by mapkinase (958129)

              >are what any lovers of freedom should fear

              Not only that phrase but the whole history of freedom loving in US, brings to mind that those freedom loves play quite passive role in the lovemaking.

              Meaning, you are being screwed in this process.

          • by rtb61 (674572)

            This is dangerous software designed to attack regular business and users PCs. Once discovered in target countries in will be analysed, edited and returned in spades. So the local populace is largely unaware and defenceless when their computers, networks and bank accounts go down. For once and all cyber warfare is purely a defensive war once bloody morons go on the offensives they will just cripple the systems of people whom they are meant to be protecting.

            Simplest revenge attack, inform local technology

        • by couchslug (175151)

          "You know, so that the electorate can make electoral decisions based on actual information rather than fear-mongering?"

          As if they would ever do such a thing. Most people are contemptibly stupid and deserve the politicians they CHOOSE to elect and support with such passion.

          • by AmiMoJo (196126)

            Given a free choice I doubt the majority of voters would choose either of the two available options. Since realistically those are the only two groups who can win and a vote for anyone else is basically wasted and counts for nothing the only intelligent thing to do is vote for the least bad option.

            What's contemptibly stupid is not understanding that the system itself is broken, and people are just trying to make the best of a bad situation. Or do you have a plan you chose not to share with us?

        • What about keeping the general population informed about what the world is up to?

          Because of the overall "quality" of media worldwide, removing such a limitation on information dissemination would hardly amount to achieving the goal of the general population being informed.

        • Re:Kaspersky Again (Score:4, Interesting)

          by houghi (78078) on Monday May 28, 2012 @06:16PM (#40137681)

          Voting is done by emotion, not by logic.

          Belgium has a multi-party system and before the elctions there was a voting test (stemtest) if you did not know who to vote for.
          With several questions about statements and the importance of those statements.

          Several politicians who tried it where apparently in the wrong party. That could be explained that they went to a certain party for whatever reason.

          Several friends of mine who did the test got to a different party then what they would normally vote for. When I asked them if they would vote for that new party, the answer was mostly no and sometimes, I do not know yet.

          When I asked why, the answers where always emotional, not rational. These people were well informed and STILL went with their emotions. Some of them based on fear, others on not wanting to break tradition "because that who they voted for before".

          • by eyenot (102141)

            Because politicians lie, because civilizations have always failed and nobody wants that to happen.

          • In the last two Canadian elections, our national broadcaster, CBC, put up a "political compass" online survey tool that worked with a similar idea to your stemtest. Instead of the flawed, overly-simplistic left-right wing, they use the more modern (and less-flawed) two-axis grid.

            Like your friends, a lot people who took it were placed in a different party than they expected. I don't know if your friends did this, but the comments left on the compass tool accused the producers of rigging it so results more of

      • Re:Kaspersky Again (Score:5, Insightful)

        by gstoddart (321705) on Monday May 28, 2012 @04:11PM (#40137003) Homepage

        There's nothing patriotic, altruistic, laudable, or beneficial about screwing up legitimate national intelligence projects.

        Why should they care about 'national intelligence' as it pertains to other countries? They have no duty to protect whoever created this. Hell, until they've done the analysis, they don't even know who the hell it is.

        If you have code out there that's an attack vector, it's a vulnerability for everyone. If someone repurposed the attack, it's something which can be exploited.

        Do you think people should have laid low on the topic of the Sony rootkit on CDs because, clearly they were justified?

        I don't buy your argument -- security researchers are looking for vulnerabilities we could all be subject to.

        National intelligence be damned ... how the hell are you supposed to know what is being targeted and by whom? Did China write this? The US? Russia? Tuvalu?

        That's like saying people should stop worrying if the police are breaking laws because they're doing it for our own good. Then ends don't always justify the means.

      • There's nothing patriotic, altruistic, laudable, or beneficial about screwing up legitimate national intelligence projects.

        There exist differences of opinion as to what is "legitimate".

      • Re:Kaspersky Again (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Will.Woodhull (1038600) <wwoodhull@gmail.com> on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @12:45AM (#40139413) Homepage Journal

        There comes a point with even the most successful cyberattack vector-- think stuxnet-- of diminishing returns. Sooner or later the nation under attack is going to wise up and put in place some sort of protection.

        However the attacker can change the game and go public just before that point, and do so in a way that can create enough confusion and fud to further damage his opponent. The way the news about stuxnet was dribbled out, with lots of caveats and plausible conspiracy theories, Iran has had to spend a lot more than they had budgeted for on system reviews. And all those Iranian tech people who have been tied up in assuring that military and critical civilian systems are clean-- well, they are no longer available for other pursuits, like refining nuclear detonation models or missile control systems. This is significant: if you can tie up the intellectual resources of a country with a few thousand lines of code, you can bring the development of their war machine to a grinding halt. And do it without anyone having to dodge real bullets.

        It is plausible that we are now learning about Flame because its controllers have decided that it is time to go public. Kaspersky might be simply an unwitting player in moving the game to the next level. Or perhaps they are very much in the loop. From the perspective of a third party, it doesn't matter. What matters is that Flame makes it more likely that any clandestine business arrangements with repressive Middle East countries will become public. That shifts the risk - benefit analysis of companies that are thinking about doing business with those governments, and those governments will find some purchases will be harder to make and more expensive.

        Of course this post adds to the fud; it suggests a complex conspiracy theory operating on several levels. I can say that I am not a party to such a conspiracy, but most readers would not be able to verify that. I can also say that as I do not much like the current regimes in Iran and Syria, I think it would be a good thing if they had to spend more of their resources on assuring that all their computers were clean of nasty little surprises. It seems to me that talking up the possibility of some kind of international conspiracy of many, many levels would be a good thing, whether it is true or not. Could the intelligence agencies of the USA, UK, Israel, Russia, Denmark (why not Denmark?) and so on have formed their own little Anonymous group? Can you not picture Ninja Hackers in Guy Fawkes masks?

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      well.. in this case apparently they just "re-found" it. it was already discoverd.

      kaspersky just brought to "western" world by calling it "super cyber-weapon" because it's soooo complex by having 3000 lines of lua and 20mbytes of libs(ssh, lua and some shit like that).

    • by sosume (680416)

      Most US-made products are illegal to be sold to Iran, both export- and import restrictions will apply. Defying such rules guarantees life-long trouble at the airport and when dealing with the government. A Russian antivirus company won't have such problems; theoretically they could be barred from the US and European markets for selling advanced technology to Iran but that seems unlikely at the moment.

    • Maybe Russia has more access to middle eastern states that play nice with Russia than the U.S./Europe and their ties with Israel do?
    • by mTor (18585)

      I have no idea whether American firms are "in on it" but if I was running Windows and I needed AV solution, Kaspersky AV would be my top choice simply because of their track record.

      • by 0123456 (636235)

        Indeed. Who would buy an AV solution with a declared record of not blocking 'it's in a good cause' malware?

    • by geniice (1336589)

      Could be a marketing strategy. This kind of stuff is of limited interest to conventional security firms (a focused attack by someone with more resources than you isn't something you can do much about and isn't a very large market) but it does make your company look like they know what they are doing. US and European companies may use different marketing strategies.

    • by artor3 (1344997)

      No coincidence, but not a conspiracy either. Kaspersky wants to sell protection throughout the Middle East, and this is a great way to market it. The US & European firms know that such a marketing strategy would be a lost cause for them.

  • by satuon (1822492) on Monday May 28, 2012 @03:49PM (#40136871)

    It seems those kinds of viruses are going against the trends, which is using social engineering nowadays, and not very sophisticated software. For example, the oh-so-dangerous Chinese hackers mostly use tactics which boil down to sending emails asking you in clever ways to execute the attached exe or to enter your username and password on their website that looks like your legitimate one.

    It's refreshing to see a virus which targets, you know, the actual computer instead of the user.

  • by lexsird (1208192) on Monday May 28, 2012 @03:57PM (#40136927)

    Here we declare that any such actions against us are an act of war, right? If it's an act of war against us, isn't it an act of war against them? Are we behind this? If so, WTF?

    • Re:Seriously?? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Genda (560240) <mariet@ g o t . n et> on Monday May 28, 2012 @04:06PM (#40136971) Journal

      First we got the bomb, and that was good,
      'Cause we love peace and motherhood.
      Then Russia got the bomb, but that's okay,
      'Cause the balance of power's maintained that way.
      Who's next?
      France got the bomb, but don't you grieve,
      'Cause they're on our side (I believe).
      China got the bomb, but have no fears,
      They can't wipe us out for at least five years.
      Who's next?

      -- Tom Lerher "Who's Next"

    • by mpoulton (689851)

      Here we declare that any such actions against us are an act of war, right? If it's an act of war against us, isn't it an act of war against them? Are we behind this? If so, WTF?

      Um, wrong. Where did you get the idea that the US views malware-based foreign espionage as an act of war? If we did, we'd be bombing China. If we're not behind this I'll be disappointed.

      • by 0123456 (636235)

        Um, wrong. Where did you get the idea that the US views malware-based foreign espionage as an act of war?

        So if important US systems were infested with Iranian-government malware, Congress wouldn't be demanding that Obama bomb Iran this afternoon?

        • by Elldallan (901501)
          If it was just espionage and not sabotage they would probably just quietly fix the vulnerabilities and bury the fact that it ever happened as deep as possible, you don't want to publicly admit that critical infrastructure is that vulnerable. Actual sabotage on the other hand would probably be an entirely different story, at least if enough people got hurt or the sabotage was widespread enough that it could not be covered up, if it can still be covered up then it is in their own interest to quietly cover up
        • Re:Seriously?? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by mpoulton (689851) on Monday May 28, 2012 @04:20PM (#40137065)

          Um, wrong. Where did you get the idea that the US views malware-based foreign espionage as an act of war?

          So if important US systems were infested with Iranian-government malware, Congress wouldn't be demanding that Obama bomb Iran this afternoon?

          Important US government systems ARE being continuously attacked by Chinese-government actors, and Congress is NOT demanding that Obama bomb China. I don't think the result would be any different if it were Iran doing it (and they're probably trying). "Cyber-warfare" is not real war, and in practice it does not provoke a military response these days. It's happening all the time.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            And what do you think are you going to bomb in China, exactly? Your own company's factories? "God damn it, stop hacking us or we'll bomb our own ipad factory!" Yeah, the Chinese are fucking scared...

            • Re:Seriously?? (Score:4, Interesting)

              by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 28, 2012 @05:32PM (#40137471)

              Actually it's funny this is right out of Marxist philosophy which says whoever controls the means of the production are the rulers of that society. Well, over the last 20 years China has pulled in all of the world production so guess what that means? Haha, the Chinese are pretty crafty. If only Americans had read Marx instead of burning it they might have seen it coming.

              • Actually it's funny this is right out of Marxist philosophy which says whoever controls the means of the production are the rulers of that society. Well, over the last 20 years China has pulled in all of the world production so guess what that means? Haha, the Chinese are pretty crafty. If only Americans had read Marx instead of burning it they might have seen it coming.

                Except China does not control the means of production. Apple as well as other have all said they could build stuff in the US, but it isn't as cheap or convenient as doing it in China. Nations such as Korea, Taiwan, and Japan who actually make the parts that China assembles that require skilled workers and much more expensive and long term factories to manufacture are much more in charge of the means of production than the Chinese. Hell, most things made in China we care about are built by Foxconn which is a

                • by eyenot (102141)

                  You're acknowledging that China has beaten the rest of the world market in labor and production, and that they are now currently producing things for every other country that has become too lazy or constipated to produce on their own. How can you claim that China does not control the means of production? They have controlled it perhaps not by way of force but surely through shrewd dealing and a disinterest in integrity. Notice that we continue to allow China to build for us even though their work is arrogan

                • by eyenot (102141)

                  I threaded my response wrong. See below!

                • by eyenot (102141)

                  Both times I clicked to reply to this same response, the response was instead threaded to the parent. What gives, Slashdot?? I'm curious to see which one this ends up threaded under.

    • by Elldallan (901501)
      Any such act IS an act of war but thats only a problem if the enemy has the capability and the will to strike back. US/Israel obviously thinks that Iran currently doesn't have the will or capability.

      Besides it's typically only a problem if the aggressor is unable to credibly deny the accusations
    • Re:Seriously?? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Reapman (740286) on Monday May 28, 2012 @04:25PM (#40137095)

      Yeah, just like all the spying and such that went on between the US and Soviet Union - everytime someone was caught it ended up in a new world war.

      Oh wait no it didn't. Just because the tools changed doesn't mean much else has. This sort of thing has gone on as long as nations have existed (if not longer), and will go on. If any of this is new or exciting for you, you need to get out more.

      Enemy nations spy on each other. Friendly nations spy on each other. It's what nations do. It's not a "ZOMG this proves (nation I hate) is evil!" material.

  • Ahhh, and they just started enriching uranium again. I guess it's back to yellow cake, and mud pies. Thanks for playing "You bet your P.C.

  • Who made Flame? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 28, 2012 @04:14PM (#40137021)

    Who made Flame?

    Flame seems to use libraries with permissive licenses only. No hacktivists or cybercriminals would care about this issue, they would use whatever works best.

    This leaves governments, they might. Why? Because if it ever becomes known who actually made it, that party would need to release all of the sources, had they used libraries under some copyleft license! Why? Well, whoever made Flame has already obviously distributed binaries, so suing for copyleft violation would happen in court, and it would be many people suing, especially the counterparty is the government. It would be a PR disaster, and to risk that on an election year? No way.

    Also, Flame requires a considerable infrastructure to store and analyze the spied information. Which governments would be capable of pulling this off? All the big ones with a lot of money to spend: China, Russia, Great Britain, France, USA, Japan, ...

    So, which government cares a lot about intellectual property? China? Nope. Russia? Nope. Great Britain - well, yeah. Personally, I don't think it was Great Britain. It would be enlightening to check the Flame Lua-parts (or other plaintext in the main Flame) for spelling of -ise vs. -ize. I bet there's -ize and not -ise.

    It is said that Stuxnet and Flame share similar 0-day holes. The nation which developed Stuxnet is Israel and they have a strong history of military and intelligence collaboration with USA. Israel would not have had the capability or capacity to run two such parallel programs on its own.

    So who HAS likely NOT made Flame? Drop the nations which are one way or another unlikely candidates, and only one name is really left.

    So, who made Flame?
    USA made Flame. This is what I think. What's your analysis?

    • Last time I looked both Britain and France were saving all the money they could just to try and stay afloat, so probably not them for that reason alone - although nations have a habit of spending insane money on such matters even as they sink under a sea of debt...

    • by mapkinase (958129)

      >Personally, I don't think it was Great Britain

      Good, otherwise you would remind many Russian readers of Galkovsky - the most famous Russian anti-British conspiracy theorist of our time.

    • by Brad1138 (590148)
      It was nice reading your post, I wonder where HLS will "disappear" you to..."
    • by gl4ss (559668)

      israel. saudi's. some guys who figured out that they would not be prosecuted/investigated for hacking into iranian cc accounts.

      the license thing doesn't matter - what they're doing is illegal in 99% of the western world and probably legal only in muslim somalia.

      uh and the way I read this was that stuxnet and this don't share similar holes. they share the exact same holes. which are decidedly not 0 day by any stretch today.

  • 1. a scarier version of stuxnet
    2. a Facebook smarphone
    3. secret backdoors on military chips
    4. workplace havoc because of OS fake holidays

    I was going to accuse Slashdot of fearmongering, until I doublechecked and found out that, yes, Facebook really is trying to build a smartphone.

    The Apocalypse is near.

  • I'll ask (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eyenot (102141) <eyenot@hotmail.com> on Monday May 28, 2012 @07:40PM (#40138063) Homepage

    the important somewhat scary question: how does Kaspersky accumulate so much sensitive data?

    Think about it. We're talking about personal computers in the middle east. We're talking about some kind of top-shelf spyware. So where does Kaspersky pull their data from?

    I think cyberweapons could be seen as useful to computer defense companies. Since I can remember, programmers interested in viruses and virus defense have been apt to bring up the question, "why shouldn't we infect everybody's computer with the latest virus scanner in the form of a virus? Why leave it this voluntary thing?"

    Obivously Kaspersky and any other computer virus defense company could benefit from spreading a virus that allows them to actively scan the contents of a computer's drive or memory, if they are looking across a huge geography for a specific signature. They could benefit even more if the virus allowed them to attach modules that will tell them if the cyberweapon attempts to contact other computers either to spread or to report back, because this would allow them to quickly and easily build a vector map.

    Which leads me to ask how they get their data in the first place. It's not like they are paying off all the Geek Squads in the Middle East, to send them copies of the entire contents of any drives brought in as having "problems". So how are they discovering threats in the first place, and how can they write paragraphs such as this one:

    "According to our observations, the operators of Flame artificially support the quantity of infected systems on a certain constant level. This can be compared with a sequential processing of fields â" they infect several dozen, then conduct analysis of the data of the victim, uninstall Flame from the systems that arenâ(TM)t interesting, leaving the most important ones in place. After which they start a new series of infections."

    This suggests that they have become intimately knowledgable about the owners of the infected machines, whether or not those owners are persons of interest, and know seemingly just about as much as the owners of the cyberweapon know. So where is the line drawn, to distinguish between threat and defense??

    • Update 1 (28-May-2012):

      According to our analysis, the Flame malware is the same as âoeSkyWiperâ, described by the CrySyS Lab and by Iran Maher CERT group where it is called âoeFlamerâ.

  • Here is Crysys' analysis of Flame (which they call Skywiper) [crysys.hu] (pdf) Seems to be more informative than the Kaspersky dito.

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