Flame doesn't just collect data: It deletes filesNext thing you know they'll discover that it washes dishes too....
A Symantec expert says that the allegedly US-Israeli developed Flame computer virus doesn't just collect data. It also destroys files.
Iran had previously blamed Flame for causing data loss on computers in the country's main oil export terminal and Oil Ministry. But prior to Symantec's discovery, cyber experts had only unearthed evidence that proved Flame could spy on conversations on the computers it infects and steal data.This is really cool so long as it's only used to attack bad guys like Iran. And definitely not my computers.
Symantec researcher Vikram Thakur said on Thursday that the company has now identified a component of Flame that allows operators to delete files from computers, which means it can cause critical programs to fail or completely disable operating systems.
"These guys have the capability to delete everything on the computer," Thakur said. "This is not something that is theoretical. It is absolutely there."
If Symantec's conclusions are validated, that means Flame could be used as a weapon to attack computers that run critical infrastructure systems, including dams, chemical plants and manufacturing facilities, security specialists said.
Boldizsár Bencsath, an expert on cyber warfare with Hungary's Laboratory of Cryptography and System Security, said there was at least a 70 percent chance that Flame was used to attack Iran in April.
"Of course it can be used for sabotage," said Bencsath, who began investigating Flame several weeks before it was first reported to the public. "It may have been used to attack critical infrastructure and it may be used in the future."
Sean McGurk, a former Department of Homeland Security official who helped direct the US effort to protect critical infrastructure from cyber attacks, said that Flame was not the first piece of malicious software designed to sabotage systems by deleting data.
What makes it unique, he said, is that the data-wiping module works alongside a suite of other programs including the espionage tools that have previously been identified.
"It could render computing devices useless," said McGurk, who is now chief executive of a consulting firm known as NExt Generation Micro LLC.
That presents a threat, he said, because computers are used in all sorts of industrial control systems, affecting everything from critical processes at manufacturing plants to the pressure inside water networks. "Cyber elements can have catastrophic impacts," he said.