Flame Virus Briefly Invades Iranian Oil Systems

By Steve Anderson May 30, 2012

The recently-appeared Flame virus continues its grim march across systems throughout the Middle East and Europe, and recently landed in the midst of Iran's oil industry. Reports have emerged, however, that the virus was quickly contained by somewhat extreme measures.

Senior Iranian military officials commented earlier today that Flame had been found, and had briefly affected the computer system of one of the largest industries in Iran: oil. The reports from Gholam Reza Jalali, head of an Iranian military unit geared toward fighting sabotage, said Iran's own experts had found and defeated the virus, though reportedly Iran was forced to cut Internet links to the systems in question in a bid to contain the virus and keep it from spreading.

Jalali further claimed only the oil industry had been affected by the Flame virus, but that all data that was lost had also been recovered.

This is not the first time Iran has been hit by an advanced computer virus like Flame; previously, Iran incurred the Stuxnet virus, set to disrupt Iran's nuclear program, back in 2010. And considering that some technology experts are starting to see links between the Flame virus and Stuxnet, some even wonder if the two had the same ultimate source.

They had also been hit by a form of malware known as Duqu, but this reportedly did no harm to any of Iran's nuclear or industrial sites.

The Flame virus can not only interfere with data; it can also activate audio systems on the computer in which it's been planted to intercept, record and send back audio information to its handlers. It also reportedly has the capability to intercept keystrokes, capture screenshots and access Bluetooth-capable cell phones to obtain data contained on those devices.

Given the overall situation in the Middle East, which generally trends from "hostile" to worse, it's not surprising that many in Iran – and elsewhere – are pointing fingers at Israel over the virus. Considering that Israel's vice premier, Moshe Yaalon, took to Army Radio and spoke briefly about the Flame virus, referring to Israel's being "blessed with high technology" and "boast[ing] tools that open all sorts of opportunities for us," it's not exactly a denial that they had a hand in it.

While Iranian experts have, according to the Deputy Minister of Communications and Information Technology Ali Hakim Javadi, developed an anti-virus program capable of finding and defeating Flame, it remains to be seen just how effective it will be, or how much damage Flame can do to their systems in the interim.

Some have looked at this as the start of a whole new kind of war, and it looks to be no less destructive than its predecessors.




Edited by Braden Becker

Contributing TechZone360 Writer

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