Hey, remember when the military was really worried about cyberwarfare and how terrorist threats to America could totally, like, mess with us on computers? Well, apparently that time is now, except it’s likely we’re the ones messing with countries we don’t like.
This time around, it’s Flame, a virus that the respected cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Labs is almost 100% sure is state-sponsored. Just like the carefully designed virus Stuxnet, the first acknowledged cyberweapon, Flame is a “targeted” virus: that is, it looks for computers that meet certain criteria and when they do, it drops its payload.
In this case, that’s computers throughout, surprise, the Middle East, especially Iran. Flame’s job is to steal files from computers, watch the desktop for new documents and other visual input, and record any audio conversations conducted over the computer — in other words, it’s a wiretap for Skype.
Officially, nobody knows where Stuxnet, which was designed to wreck Iran’s uranium enriching centrifuges, actually came from, although the suspect list is pretty short. The key thing is that Stuxnet and Flame are very precise — the computer virus equivalent of a sniper rifle. Most viruses are basically dickery pulled by a teenager for giggles or designed by criminals to steal credit card numbers: these programs are more complex and designed to do much different tasks.
In other words, we officially live in a world where cyberweapons exist. Welcome to the future, kids.
(Image courtesy matthewvenn on Flickr)