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US, Israel Behind Flame Malware 382

Posted by Soulskill
from the apparently-they-did-start-the-fire dept.
The Washington Post is reporting that the sophisticated 'Flame' malware was created by the United States and Israel in order to collect intelligence on Iranian computer networks. The intel was to be used in a cyber-sabotage campaign intended to slow Iran's development of nuclear weapons. This follows confirmation a few weeks ago that the U.S. and Israel were behind Stuxnet, which caused problems at Iran's nuclear facilities. From the article: "The emerging details about Flame provide new clues to what is thought to be the first sustained campaign of cyber-sabotage against an adversary of the United States. 'This is about preparing the battlefield for another type of covert action,' said one former high-ranking U.S. intelligence official, who added that Flame and Stuxnet were elements of a broader assault that continues today. 'Cyber-collection against the Iranian program is way further down the road than this.' ... The scale of the espionage and sabotage effort 'is proportionate to the problem that's trying to be resolved,' the former intelligence official said, referring to the Iranian nuclear program. Although Stuxnet and Flame infections can be countered, 'it doesn't mean that other tools aren't in play or performing effectively,' he said."
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US, Israel Behind Flame Malware

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  • by Gothmolly (148874) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @09:05PM (#40379921)

    I mean seriously? Who else besides the Israelis a) hate Iran and b) have the technical chops to do it?

  • by niftydude (1745144) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @09:08PM (#40379941)
    it is an act of espionage and sabotage proportionate to the problem that is trying to be resolved.

    If you do it to us, it will be considered an act of war.
  • Double standards? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @09:15PM (#40379993)
    When the US uses "cyber-terrorism" its portrayed as a heroic action. If Iran does the same thing to the US, we'd use it as an excuse to start yet -another- costly, expensive, and needless war.

    Why does it seem like the past 15 years of politics have been "Wag the Dog" repeated over and over again?
  • by artor3 (1344997) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @09:22PM (#40380041)

    You're referring to a previous story that you misinterpreted to mean that the US would consider cyberattacks to be an act of war. What that story actually said was that cyberattacks against certain key infrastructure might be considered an act of war if it were serious enough. Quoting:

    If a cyber attack produces the death, damage, destruction or high-level disruption that a traditional military attack would cause, then it would be a candidate for a "use of force" consideration, which could merit retaliation.

    That basically says that they won't rule out military force in certain extreme cases. Nor should they.

    And for Iran's part, if they'd like to consider Stuxnet to be an act of war, they can. Heck, they could consider Obama forgetting to say "bless you" after Ahmadinejad sneezes to be an act of war. That's the fun thing about the word "consider". But they won't, just as they didn't consider Israel's assassination of their nuclear scientists to be one.

    I'm sorry that international espionage isn't as cut and dry as you'd like it to be, but that's just how it is and has been for most of history. There were pretenses of chivalry in Europe (and likely other places) for a time, back when royalty was a good ole boys' club and the peasants would be the ones dying. We're past that now, and I for one am glad of it.

  • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @09:26PM (#40380069)
    Yep, I just love it.

    Last November people said: I'm voting for Obama because he's anti-war and wants to see peace!

    2009 Peace Prize: goes to Obama

    for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples

    2010: Let's bomb Pakistan with even more drones!

    2011: Let's bomb Libya!

    2012: Let's use "cyber-terrorism" against Iran!

  • by Hamsterdan (815291) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @09:26PM (#40380071)

    If a normal person does the same, it's gonna be prison time. Gotta love how the governments are accountable to the same laws.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @09:28PM (#40380087)
    in other words... if someone were to inject a cyber attack on say... or nuke facilities??? posted anon due to moding
  • by artor3 (1344997) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @09:28PM (#40380093)

    So will you come back and admit to being wrong when you inevitably are?

    Israel has been trying to get Obama to go to war alongside them for quite some time now. He's refused. Maybe because we can't afford it, maybe because he doesn't think its necessary, maybe because his base would desert him, maybe because he just thinks that wars of aggression are bad. But declaring war right before an election? Absolute political suicide. His base would desert him, his opponents would mock him for his transparent ploy, and independents would look at the bill from Iraq and blanch.

    Now, if Romney wins, we might be in Iran by November of 2013... maybe. But I think Syria is the more likely candidate. He already wants to arm the rebels, and his party wants to go further than that.

  • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @09:32PM (#40380113)
    However, there is a double standard. Iran is trying its best to be recognized by the international community as a modern Islamic democracy, Obama is looking for more blood to put on his Nobel Peace Prize. The American public on both sides of the political aisle are crying out for another war and even the smallest thing could set off a "drone war" leading to a full-scale conflict.
  • by artor3 (1344997) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @09:34PM (#40380133)

    And if a normal person builds an aircraft carrier and conducts military exercises in national waters, they'd also go to prison. What is your point? If a government isn't allowed to do things that individual citizens can't, then it's not a government. It's a social club.

  • by niftydude (1745144) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @09:37PM (#40380163)

    You're referring to a previous story that you misinterpreted to mean that the US would consider cyberattacks to be an act of war. What that story actually said was that cyberattacks against certain key infrastructure might be considered an act of war if it were serious enough.

    I didn't misinterpret anything. It is you who are playing with semantics.

    Stuxnet was an attack on industrial control systems used in Iranian nuclear power plants.
    Are you implying that US nuclear power plants are not considered key infrastructure? And that a cyberattack bringing down that infrastructure would not be considered an act of war?

    I'm sorry that international espionage isn't as cut and dry as you'd like it to be, but that's just how it is and has been for most of history. There were pretenses of chivalry in Europe (and likely other places) for a time, back when royalty was a good ole boys' club and the peasants would be the ones dying. We're past that now, and I for one am glad of it.

    I don't know what the Iranians have done to you that makes you happy that the US and Israeli government is dangerously meddling with Nuclear power plants and risking the lives of Iranian citizens - but the Iranians haven't done anything to me, and so I'd prefer to take an approach of innocent until proven guilty before instigating a war against them.

    If you want my support for acts of espionage escalating to a potential war against Iran, you are going to need a better reason than "they hates our freedoms" in order to convince me of the need for these actions.

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @09:42PM (#40380191) Journal
    Still better than Bush.
  • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @09:44PM (#40380211)
    And Herpes is better than AIDS, doesn't mean I want either of them.

    Plus, last time I checked, Bush wasn't running in 2008.
  • by demachina (71715) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @09:45PM (#40380217)

    The U.S. law on computer intrusions specifically exempts law enforcement and intelligence agencies:

    "(f) This section does not prohibit any lawfully authorized investigative, protective, or intelligence activity of a law enforcement agency of the United States, a State, or a political subdivision of a State, or of an intelligence agency of the United States."

    This is the price we pay for electing people who are willing to criminalize nearly every action of ordinary citizens, and almost no action by government officials, even when they engage in actions that most people would consider criminal.

    For example:

    - torturing people
    - computer hacking
    - spying on people without a warrant
    - snatching people for rendition in violation of the laws and sovereignty of the countries where they are snatched
    - holding people, sometimes the wrong people, in indefinite detention without a hearing
    - assassinating people including U.S. citizens without a trial
    - using drones to assassinate people, often innocent civilians, in countries where no state of war exists while violating the sovereignty of nations we are not at war with

    This list goes on for a long time so I'll stop now.

  • by artor3 (1344997) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @09:46PM (#40380235)

    Oh come on, you know full well that Stuxnet was targeting the centrifuges. Screwing with centrifuges is not going to take their power grid offline, and it's certainly not "risking the lives of Iranian citizens". You're either being dishonest, or you are woefully ignorant of how nuclear power works.

    As for your support, I couldn't care less about it, and I've certainly never said anything even remotely like "they hate our freedoms".

  • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @09:50PM (#40380257)
    Worried about a nuclear Iran? Yes. Worried about a nuclear US, China, Russia, India, UK, France, Pakistan, North Korea, Israel? Yes.

    Nuclear weapons are terrible and I don't trust -any- government to refrain from the use of them, either as threats to bully others or actually using them as terrorist weapons like the US did in Japan.

    Really, I'm no more worried that Iran and North Korea have nuclear weapons than I am that the US, France and India have nuclear weapons.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @09:52PM (#40380269)

    The point is the hypocrisy, as in when the US promptly killed more civilians by bombing Afghanistan just after 9/11 than had died on 9/11 and few Americans seemed to notice -- as in Israel condemning Iran's nuclear program when they themselves developed nuclear weapons in the 60s while literally lying about it.

  • by rockout (1039072) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @09:53PM (#40380275)

    Iran is trying its best to be recognized by the international community as a modern Islamic democracy,

    Oh for fuck's sake, give it a rest. There should be a -1 "Naive" mod for this.

    I'm no apologist for the US government, they can do and continue to do terrible things, but to pretend that things in Iran are better for the average citizen than they are for the average US citizen is ridiculous.

  • by rockout (1039072) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @10:01PM (#40380323)
    Actually he decided to commit our country to support a popular uprising against a dictator, which ultimately succeeded in deposing said dictator without putting American boots on the ground. You and I obviously have our differences if you don't see the contrast between that and Iraq2003, but I for one have no problem with the way he handled our involvement in Libya.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @10:01PM (#40380325)

    Iran is NOT americas's enemy.

    Israel is an enemy of iran. Israel makes their enemies Americas enemies. If america is iran's enemy I dunno but prolly not

    Learn the fucking difference.

  • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @10:01PM (#40380327)
    Iran is a terrible government (heck, all governments are terrible) but their international relations are much nicer than the US. The last major war that Iran fought was against Iraq, who invaded Iran in the 1980s. The last major war that the US fought was against Iraq which was several thousand miles away from the US. Last time I checked, Iran didn't have friendly drones in other countries constantly bombing them and writing off civilian casualties as being "terrorists".

    Iran isn't good, they have a terrible record of human rights and generally have a dictatorship. However, their foreign policy is a heck of a lot more friendly than the US.
  • by DynamoJoe (879038) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @10:05PM (#40380365)
    Sabotage: yes. Cyber terrorism? No. Warfare, yes, but not terrorism.
  • Re:Evidence (Score:2, Insightful)

    by arth1 (260657) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @10:11PM (#40380407) Homepage Journal

    You think an ordinary blackhat could hack Siemen's equipment?

    Your question makes no sense.
    I think there are several extraordinary blackhats. For every one that the government has recruited, there are likely ten more which they haven't.
    And they don't even have as narrow a target as Siemens - they can target any critical system used by the US or Israel.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @10:30PM (#40380527)

    Cos we know American aid doesn't have any strings attached. Have you ever heard of neocolonialism?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @10:38PM (#40380583)

    Iran hasnt waged an offensive war in centuries. The US and Israel do so every few years. Keep the neocon paranoid propagada in check.

  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @10:45PM (#40380635)

    I mean seriously? Who else besides the Israelis a) hate Iran and b) have the technical chops to do it?

    Believe it or not, we're not the most technologically sophisticated country. China has more honor students than we have students. Most of Europe has a more developed telecommunications infrastructure than we do; internet, mobile phones, cable tv, you name it. We are not number 1.

    As to who else hates Iran and has the capability to do something about it... it should be pointed out we don't hate Iran. We hate any country who tries to acquire nuclear weapons. Something the size of a suitcase can destroy a major city... it's why we worked so damn hard with the Russians to disarm as many of them as we could. Not every country will play nice: Some of them will do whatever it takes to beat their enemies, even if that means killing themselves in the process. Unfortunately, all the countries currently working on making nuclear weapons fall into that category, including Iran.

    The only reason we're fucking around with 'cyber' warfare instead of curb stomping them is it's an election year and our economy is in ruins thanks to fighting two unnecessary wars based on our President deciding to finish what his daddy started rather than leave well enough alone, and our country having a momentary fit of stupidity where we had to kill everyone and everything wearing a funny hat because a couple of our sand castles got kicked over by a bully.

  • by Karmashock (2415832) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @10:48PM (#40380657)

    Give him a blind fold and a cigarette... and then shoot him.

    As if the US didn't have enough of it's image tarnished by the wikileaks issue. Every diplomatic entity in the world is terrified to tell the US anything because they're afraid we'll leak it accidentally or on purpose. You don't leak cover intelligence.

    Find the guy that is doing this... and shoot him. If this is Obama's notion of "smart" diplomacy then he's a fool. This is beyond absurd.

  • by TubeSteak (669689) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @11:06PM (#40380779) Journal

    I don't know what the Iranians have done to you that makes you happy that the US and Israeli government is dangerously meddling with Nuclear power plants and risking the lives of Iranian citizens

    Stuxnet only attacked specific hardware configurations known to exist in Iran's uranium enrichment facilities.
    Stuxnet infected other computers, but did nothing malicious to them.
    There was no risk to nuclear power plants or Iran's civilian population.

    but the Iranians haven't done anything to me, and so I'd prefer to take an approach of innocent until proven guilty before instigating a war against them.

    Innocent until proven guilty is a legal fiction created so that our system of justice can be fair.
    It does not mean you are innocent and outside the legal system no one has to abide by that standard.

    That said, allowing Iran to go nuclear would lead to nuclear proliferation amongst its neighbors.
    At the same time, directly attacking Iran would cause them to lash out, in all directions, at once.
    It's a lose-lose situation that Stuxnet turned into a moderate win.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @11:07PM (#40380785)

    I can kinda see both arguments, but "We're spying on your obviously high profile nuclear program" and "our virus broke some of your enrichment hardware", probably just don't have the same shock and terror as "someone just randomly blew up a bus with your family in it". If you find yourself going to the dictionary to figure out if something is terrorism, you're trying too hard.

    Though when the Israelis sent people to execute Iranian nuclear scientists and such... that might well qualify in a more traditional way.

  • by artor3 (1344997) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @11:14PM (#40380807)

    Well since you asked...

    I have a strong dislike for irrationality, fear-mongering, and lies. I see a lot of all three whenever the topic of the United States comes up on Slashdot. The US certainly has its flaws. Lots of them in fact. But if you believe Slashdot, you'd think the US is some sort of comic book dystopia. So yeah, I push back against that sort of paranoid fear-mongering. I know I'll never get through to the true believers -- just as I'll never convince truthers that Bush didn't plan 9/11 along with Rockefeller and the queen of England -- but hopefully I can stop some forum lurkers from being lured down that path of irrationality and lies.

    As for Iran, I don't consider them to be a threat to the US. But if they obtain nukes, it will cement the leadership in power, as it did in North Korea. We all saw the beatings, rapes, and murders that the Iranian government employed against its people when they protested Ahmadinejad's reelection. Do you really think it would be a good thing for that regime to have even more power? I would never support a war in Iran, because that would kill innocent people. I don't even support Israel's assassination of nuclear scientists. But by the same token, I do support actions that prevent the current regime from obtaining nukes, because I think that Iran having nukes would also cause more death. Not through nuclear attacks, mind you, but by perpetuating a regime with a horrid record of human rights abuses. Delaying or preventing that possibility, without bloodshed, is a Good Thing.

  • by Dahamma (304068) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @11:16PM (#40380823)

    It's hard to claim that the primary *intent* was to incite fear when it was created to be so stealthy it may have been running for years without anyone even noticing...

    To quote a well-respected Dr. on the subject... "Of course, the whole point of a Doomsday Machine is lost, if you *keep* it a *secret*! Why didn't you tell the world, EH?"

  • by SeaFox (739806) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @11:17PM (#40380829)

    You seem to be assuming that Obama is actually behind this. The three letter agencies that make up the U.S. government don't ask for the President's approval every time they want to tie their shoes.

  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @11:21PM (#40380867) Homepage
    Whether Iran considers assassination of their nuclear engineers to be an act of war by Israel isn't that relevant since Iran is in a state of war with Israel. In fact, they are at this point the only country in the region which has essentially refused to ever even remotely attempt to consider sitting down at a negotiating table with Israel. (Even Syria has done more). For all purposes that matter, Israel and Iran are at war. The only marginal way that they might not be from a legal perspective is that Iran doesn't recognize Israel's existence. So assassinating Iranian nuclear scientists just means that the state of war is heating up.
  • by dpilot (134227) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @11:22PM (#40380875) Homepage Journal

    Which scares you more, Stuxnet and Flame, which at the very least appear to have been fairly specifically targeted, or Iran with nuclear weapons?

    In another way, at least Stuxnet and Flame have come to light, show us what's possible, and start us thinking about how to counter. Imagine a world where such capabilities had been kept in the dark until used on a public infrastructure attack.

  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @11:24PM (#40380883) Homepage
    That ignores that Iran is helping prop up the Syrian government, and that Iran has been one of the chief funders of Hezbollah and other organizations which have repeatedly attacked Israel. Moreover, comparing small countries to large countries when it comes to foreign policy is not generally representative- large countries have much more wide-ranging interests and have much more ability to project power in the pursuit of those interests. So to really do very badly on foreign policy you need to be large.
  • by InspectorGadget1964 (2439148) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @11:51PM (#40381041) Journal
    What scares me most, is Israel's nuclear weapons, not Iran's. Iran does not have any yet and so far, no proof has been provided that they actually are planning to produce them. Furtermore, if such a "proof" were provided by the US would have the same validity as the proof that Saddam Hussein had chemical, biological and nuculear (It is not a typo, I'm mocking W.) weapons. Would most probably be just another lie.
  • by symbolset (646467) * on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @12:11AM (#40381165) Journal
    Israel has had nukes for a very long time and not hurt anybody with them. When somebody new gets nukes we have to worry if they'll settle a grudge right away.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @01:25AM (#40381487)

    "We hate any country who tries to acquire nuclear weapons."
    This sounds funny from a country that has massive number of nuclear weapons and which has a history of aggression against the native people of the region.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @01:30AM (#40381517)

    > Which scares you more, Stuxnet and Flame, which at the very least appear to have been fairly specifically targeted, or Iran with nuclear weapons?

    A loaded question. I'm either with you or with the terrorists? I fear the US more than any other country, but I think the US fears any other country more than I do the US.

  • by Tom (822) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @01:32AM (#40381537) Homepage Journal

    Which scares you more, Stuxnet and Flame, which at the very least appear to have been fairly specifically targeted, or Iran with nuclear weapons?

    That's so easy, it's unfair: Stuxnet and Flame, of course. They already have caused considerable damage on a wide scale, and while they are targeted, it would be way too easy to re-target them on something that matters to me.

    Iran with nukes, on the other hand, is still theoretical, still has a long way to go, and even if they had nukes the chances are 99:1 that they would use them for MAD and not actually use them and even if the extremely remote chance of a nuclear detonation came to pass, it would almost certainly not affect me in the slightest.

    And, quite frankly, I don't buy nuclear fearmongering coming from the only country ever to actually drop nuclear bombs on civilian cities, twice.

  • by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @05:47AM (#40382921) Journal

    Besides, Israel itself has described cyberattacks as terrorism.

    So that implies Stuxnet was "state-sponsored terrorism [wikimedia.org]". In which case, the US should add itself to that list [wikimedia.org] it keeps...

  • by dpilot (134227) on Wednesday June 20, 2012 @06:28AM (#40383157) Homepage Journal

    > the only country ever to actually drop nuclear bombs on civilian cities, twice.

    True, and the US has used nuclear blackmail more than any other country, regrettably.

    But there is another perspective on having used the nuclear bomb in war - historical necessity. There are many who say that a "demonstration event" would have sufficed, that the nuclear bomb need never have been used in war. Unfortunately I don't believe that. I don't believe that there would ever be sufficient fear of the nuclear bomb until it had actually been used to demolish a real city and kill real people. Also unfortunately, there was a very narrow window when that could be done "safely" - without the threat of a full-fledged nuclear exchange. That was the few years when the US had the Bomb and the USSR didn't.

    Plus if you ever studied the period, you'll see that many feel that using the bomb saved at least a million lives on both sides - the cost of a protracted air/sea/land war in the Pacific. Even the Hiroshima bomb didn't convince Japan to surrender - they felt that there could only ever be one bomb like that. After Nagasaki, the surrendered because they thought that we could just keep dropping bomb after bomb like that - the first one wasn't unique. What they didn't realize was that at the time we'd made 3 bombs, Trinity, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki - that we'd shot our wad. I don't know how far in time we were from a fourth, and I don't know how Japan would have acted had they known we couldn't do it a third time, even.

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