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Russian security firm spots cyber supervirus that tops Stuxnet

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Vahid Salemi/AP

(Read caption) In this January 2011 file photo, Iranian journalism students use computers in an internet cafe in central Tehran, Iran. A new supervirus, which the Russian Internet security firm Kaspersky Labs discovered and named 'Flame,' designed to scoop up secret information like an 'industrial vacuum cleaner' is infecting computers in Iran and elsewhere in the Middle East.

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A computer virus designed to scoop up secret information like an "industrial vacuum cleaner" is infecting computers in Iran and elsewhere in the Middle East, according to the Russian Internet security firm Kaspersky Labs.

The new supervirus, which Kaspersky discovered and named "Flame," is one of the most complex items of malicious software ever conceived – many times more sophisticated than the notorious Stuxnet worm – and could well be a purposeful "cyberweapon" directed against Iran, the firm said in a statement late yesterday.

Flame is "actively being used as a cyberweapon attacking entities in several countries," Kaspersky said in a statement. It is "one of the most advanced and complete attack-toolkits ever discovered.… The complexity and functionality of the newly discovered malicious program exceed those of all other cyber menaces known to date."

According to Kaspersky, the majority of infected computers are in Iran, followed by the Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. It said the virus has probably been active for at least two years, but has not been detected until now due to its "extreme complexity."

"Over recent years the danger of military operations in Cyberspace has been one of the most serious issues of information safety," Yevgeny Kaspersky, the firm's director, is quoted as saying in the statement. "Stuxnet and Duqu were parts of one circuit of cyber attacks; their application raised concerns of a potential unleashing of global cyber war. Harmful Flame, most likely, is next stage of that war. It is important to understand, that this cyberweapon can be easily turned against any state."

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