May 29, 2012 9:22 pm

Iran attacks Israel over cyberattack

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Iran has indirectly accused Israel of using a sophisticated malicious computer programme to collect information from the Islamic regime as a UN agency warned that the Flame virus could be a more serious threat than Stuxnet.

“Some countries and illegitimate regimes are used to producing viruses,” Ramin Mehmanparast, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman, told reporters on Tuesday when asked about a malware, codenamed Flame. His comments are seen as a clear reference to Israel. Such acts of cyberwar would not damage Iran’s computer systems, he said, according to the official IRNA news agency.

When asked about reports of the virus attacking Iranian computer systems, Moshe Yaalon, Israel’s vice-prime minister, said it is “reasonable that whoever sees the Iranian threat as significant would use various measures, including this, in order to hurt it”. Mr Yaalon told Israel’s Army Radio on Tuesday that “Israel is blessed as a country rich in advanced technology, and these tools open to us all sorts of possibilities”.

On Tuesday, officials at the UN agency charged with helping member nations secure their national infrastructures, said it plans to issue a sharp warning about the risk of the Flame virus. "This is the most serious (cyber) warning we have ever put out," Marco Obiso, cyber security co-ordinator for the UN's Geneva-based International Telecommunications Union, told Reuters. "I think it is a much more serious threat than Stuxnet,” Mr Obiso said.

The confidential warning will tell member nations that the Flame virus is dangerous espionage tool that could potentially be used to attack critical infrastructure, he said in an interview. "They should be on alert," he said.

Kaspersky Labs, the Russian internet security company that discovered the Flame, said it was more complex and sophisticated than any of the cyberweapons it has seen to date.

Computer systems at Iran’s oil ministry were also attacked by hackers this year, but Tehran insists no sensitive data on oil sales was affected.

Iran alleges that recent acts of cyberwar and the alleged assassination of at least four nuclear scientists since 2009 are part of a so-called soft war by Israel as well as the US to force Iran to halt its nuclear programme.

Iran has admitted before that computers at some of its nuclear sites were attacked by the Stuxnet virus, the first known computer worm discovered in 2010 to target industrial controls, and damaged some facilities.

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