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Israel: Don't blame the Flame cyberattack on us

A spokesperson for the country tells the BBC in an interview that comments made by Israel's vice prime minister on the issue were taken out of context.

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
2 min read

The Flame worm has put the Middle East and neighboring regions on high alert and caused several security experts to look for the source. And although some media reports have linked Israel to the attack, the country has denied all involvement.

The trouble for Israel started recently when the country's vice prime minister, Moshe Ya'alon, said on Israel's military radio station, Army Radio, that "there are quite a few governments in the West that have rich high-tech [capabilities] that view Iran, and particularly the Iranian nuclear threat, as a meaningful threat -- and can possibly be involved with this field."

Ya'alon went on to say that every country that "sees the Iranian nuclear threat as a significant one" might "take every single measure available, including these, to harm the Iranian nuclear project."

Those comments sparked suggestions among some that Israel might have been behind the malware, which Kaspersky Lab researchers are calling "the most sophisticated cyberweapon yet unleashed." However, in a statement to the BBC today, a spokesman for Ya'alon said that "there was no part of the interview where the minister has said anything to imply that Israel was responsible for the virus."

Flame was discovered earlier this week. The malware has been in operation since 2010, and according to Kaspersky, is "state-sponsored." The virus is specifically designed to steal information about targeted systems and stored files, as well as information on the computer display and audio conversations. Iran was the central target for the virus, but it also impacted machines in the West Bank, Syria, and other Middle East countries, as well as Sudan.

"One of the most alarming facts is that the Flame cyber-attack campaign is currently in its active phase, and its operator is consistently surveilling infected systems, collecting information and targeting new systems to accomplish its unknown goals," Kaspersky said this week.

Although no countries have come forward to stake a claim to the virus, the U.S. and Israel have been cited most often. Earlier this week, MSNBC reported that it had spoken with a U.S. official who claimed "it was U.S." behind the attack. However, the U.S. has so far not commented on the virus and the official speaking to MSNBC acknowledged that he or she had no "first-hand knowledge" of the virus.

Update 5:45 a.m. PT to include more details.