This leak concerns the “Flame” virus that has collected intel in Iran in advance of any cyber attacks. The Washington Post publishes the leak that Flame came from a joint US-Israel operation. The details in the story may render the virus useless.
The United States and Israel jointly developed a sophisticated computer virus nicknamed Flame that collected critical intelligence in preparation for cyber-sabotage attacks aimed at slowing Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon, according to Western officials with knowledge of the effort.
The massive piece of malware was designed to secretly map Iran’s computer networks and monitor the computers of Iranian officials, sending back a steady stream of intelligence used to enable an ongoing cyberwarfare campaign, according to the officials.
The effort, involving the National Security Agency, the CIA and Israel’s military, has included the use of destructive software such as the so-called Stuxnet virus to cause malfunctions in Iran’s nuclear enrichment equipment.
The emerging details about Flame provide new clues about what is believed to be the first sustained campaign of cyber-sabotage against an adversary of the United States.
A year ago, the Obama administration moved to classify cyber attacks against the US as acts of war.
The virus is among the most sophisticated and subversive pieces of malware exposed to date. Experts said the program was designed to replicate across even highly secure networks, then control everyday computer functions to send a flow of secrets back to its creators. The code could activate computer microphones and cameras, log keyboard strokes, take computer screen shots, extract geolocation data from images and send and receive commands and data through Bluetooth wireless technology.
Flame was designed to do all this while masquerading as a routine Microsoft software update, evading detection for several years by using a sophisticated program to crack an encryption algorithm.
The leaker(s) and the Post have just put Iran’s IT security on the hunt.
The story’s political angle is obvious: It depicts the Obama administration, which has been rightly accused of tilting away from Israel, secretly working with Israel to damage Iran. It adds a dimension to the effort to halt Iran, making the Obama administration look somewhat less feckless. It benefits Obama.
It’s past time for a special investigator. Obama’s panic should not lead to these holes in our national security.