Security experts have discovered a new data-stealing virus dubbed "Flame" they say has lurked inside thousands of computers across the Middle East for as long as five years as part of a sophisticated cyber warfare campaign.
It is the most complex piece of malicious software discovered to date, said Kaspersky Lab security senior researcher Roel Schouwenberg, whose company discovered the virus. The results of the Lab's work were made available on Monday. Schouwenberg said he did not know who built Flame.
Researchers at Kaspersky said they were only starting to understand how Flame works because it is so complex. The full significance will not be known until other cyber security firms obtain samples of Flame. The Lab's research shows the largest number of infected machines are in Iran, followed by the Israel/Palestine region, then Sudan and Syria.
The virus contains about 20 times as much code as Stuxnet, which attacked an Iranian uranium enrichment facility, causing centrifuges to fail. It has about 100 times as much code as a typical virus designed to steal financial information, Schouwenberg said.
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