Iranâ€™s nuclear ambitions have been marred by the intrusion of viruses that have sabotaged its computers. So far, two major cyber-attacks have been reported and have been given the name Stuxnet and Flame. While the U.S. and Israel have been accused of being the masterminds behind the virus assault, both nations have denied involvement.
The cyber-attack continues on with the emergence of a new virus. This one is being dubbed the â€œGaussâ€ and appears to be created for the purpose of hacking into banking institutions in the Middle East. This virus is so complex and advanced that it is believed that it could only be carried out by a nation and not by a lone hacker or small organization. Once again, the U.S. and Israel are being blamed for the attack though both countries are claiming innocence.
So far, Gauss has mainly targeted banking institutions in Lebanon though attacks have also been verified in 25 other countries. However, it is believed the virus is more directed for the purpose of monitoring transaction information rather than stealing money. It is also capable of stealing passwords and monitoring audio and keystrokes. Gauss was discovered in June though the virus is believed to have been active since last September. About 2,500 accounts have been reportedly hacked and monitored by Gauss though it is believed the actual number of infected accounts could be in the tens of thousands.
In the past few months, The Middle East has come under the assault of extremely sophisticated malware. Stuxnet was the first to be discovered and was responsible for hampering the progress of Iranâ€™s nuclear facilities. This was followed by Flame and Duqu, which targeted various computer systems throughout various regions in the Middle East. It is believed all these viruses are linked and originated from the same creator.
Cyber-attacks are the preferred weapon these days by lone wolf attackers and even orchestrated by one nation against another. Another wave of cyber-attacks has been hitting the Middle East with over 800 victims unknowingly downloading a piece of malware that spies on their Web activity.
The attack is being called â€œMadi,â€ and the culprits behind it are believed to be a group of Iranians who operate off a location in Canada. The hackers stole mostly email and Facebook accounts belonging primarily to businessmen and government officials in Israel, Iran and Afghanistan.
The victimâ€™s computer becomes infected when a malicious malware, usually disguised as a harmless file, is downloaded. Once downloaded, the malware can spy on the user and record everything from keystrokes to login information. It can also monitor messages exchanged via email and social network as well as record audio activity of meetings that take place through Skype.
The email containing the downloadable malware was sent specifically to the intended targets and were not spam emails sent to thousands of random people at a time. The downloadable content often came with videos of missile tests or religious pictures, anything designed to lure the person into clicking on the material.
Madi is actually less sophisticated than other types of malware that has been implemented in the past. In fact, some experts are puzzled at how such a basic Trojan virus was capable of successfully making its way into the computers of high profile people.
Madi is just one of the many cyber-attacks that have been taking place in the past year. Two other attacks known as Stuxnet and Flame sent a malware that was intended to sabotage Iranâ€™s nuclear facilities. It has been speculated that Israel and the U.S. have been behind these attacks, though neither country has ever confirmed or denied involvement.
In the cyber era, war is no longer just fought with guns and missiles on the battlefield. To incapacitate an enemy, all one has to do is infiltrate the oppositionâ€™s computers. This enables hackers to steal vital classified information as well as infect the systems with all sorts of malware.
Computers in Iran and other Arab nations have been attacked with a vicious virus. While no culprit has claimed responsibility for the attack, Israel has hinted that it may have some involvement.
The virus is being called the Flame, and Israelâ€™s Vice Prime Minister, Moshe Yaâ€™alon, stated that the cyber-attack is expected and justified given Iranâ€™s history of making threats. He also added that Israel prides itself on its technological capabilities, which opens a wide door for the country to carry out various objectives while remaining under the radar.
The virus was initially detected by Kaspersky, an internet security firm. Flame is a malware with file transferring capabilities and is also able to record audio and keystrokes.
Ilan Proimovich, a Kaspersky representative, stated that Flame is operated via remote computer, which means it only becomes active when commanded to do so. This makes it extremely difficult to detect.
This is not the first cyber assault on Iran. Back in 2010, the countryâ€™s computer system came under attack by a virus called Stuxnet. Both the Flame and Stuxnet share striking similarities, though the former is designed for the purpose of gathering information, while the latter was created for the sole purpose of wrecking as much havoc to the computers as possible.
While the origin of the viruses remains unknown at this point, if Israel is behind it, it is not so adamant about denying it. If Israel is indeed the mastermind behind the Flame, then it could potentially foreshadow a bigger conflict between Israel and Iran in the near future.