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Iran's discovery of Flame malware turning into political hot potato

Ellen Messmer | May 31, 2012
The uproar is reaching into the United Nations, which is investigating the malware.

But analysis of samples of Flame is now being done by several security firms, and some of the earlier published analysis has also come from the Budapest University of Technology and Economics in its Laboratory of Cryptography and System Security (CrySyS). This laboratory today issued a lengthy report on the malware (which it calls sKyWIper), noting its findings are still a work in progress.

The report states that Flame/Flamer/ Skywiper has infected undisclosed systems in Hungary as well. The technical analysis of the malware suggests it's "another info-stealer with a modular structure incorporating multiple propagation and attack techniques, but further analysis may discover components with other functionalities." The report emphasizes that Skywiper/Flame "may have been active for as long as five to eight years, or even more."

According to the Hungarian report, the malware "uses compression and encryption techniques to encode its files. More specifically, it uses five different encryption methods (and some variants), three compression techniques, and at least five file formats (and some proprietary formats, too). It uses special code-injection techniques. Quite interestingly, Skywiper stores information that it gathers on infected systems in a highly structured format in SQLite databases. Another uncommon feature of Skywiper is the usage of the Lua scripting language. Skywiper has very advanced functionality to steal information and to propagate. Multiple exploits and propagation methods can be freely configured by the attackers. Information gathering from a large network of infected computers was never crafted as carefully as in Skywiper. The malware is most likely capable to use all of the computers' functionalities for its goals. It covers all major possibilities to gather intelligence, including keyboard, screen, microphone, storage devices, network, wifi, Bluetooth, USB and system processes."

The report, which calls it arguably the "most complex malware ever found," concludes that Flame/Skywiper was "developed by a government agency of a nation state with significant budget and effort, and may be related to cyber warfare activities."


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