'Flame' one of four mystery cyberweapons, says Kaspersky Lab

Development goes back to 2006

Security experts have discovered tantalising evidence that the eerily sophisticated Flame cyberweapon discovered in May was part of a family of four programs whose development goes back to 2006.

An analysis of Flame's Command and Control (C&C) servers by Kaspersky Lab in conjunction with Symantec, Germany's CERT-Bund/BSI and ITU-IMPACT found a stripped-down interface which had been designed to attract as little attention as possible from hosting admins who chanced upon it.

Although all commands were uploaded as server scripts rather than through a GUI, the team found the protocol handlers referenced four clients', SP, SPE, FL and IP, where 'FL' is understood to relate to Flame (a previous analysis identified 'Flame' as its most likely name from text buried in its code).

This leaves the mystery of the three unidentified clients; as far as Kaspersky can tell none of them are references to Stuxnet or Gauss, two other cyberweapons already pulled apart by its researchers.

"Obviously, this means there are at least three other undiscovered cyber-espionage or cyber-sabotage tools created by the same authors: SP, SPE and IP," says Kaspersky Lab.

Evidence has been mounting that cyberweapons have been around for a lot longer than realised and the latest analysis backs that up. Scripts appear to have been run from four different authors going back as far as December 2006.

This might explain why Flame itself was so vast and complex by malware standards, comprising 20 or more modules, a sign of a longstanding development.

Data stolen by the malware was removed on a regular schedule after being carefully encrypted using PKI, making recovery of the content impossible even some were found. But it was pilfering huge volumes of data nonetheless, 5GB in a single week at one point.

On the basis of infected IPs connecting to the C&C, Kaspersky reckons that the number of 'victims' of Flame must have exceeded 10,000, with the most likely targets being Iran (3702 bot IPs) and Sudan (1280 bot IPs) connecting during a seven-day period in March 2012.

Where does all this leave cyberweapons research? The most likely protagonists are the US and Israel, which have been using covert software for more than half a decade on a previously unsuspected scale. These programs certainly pre-date the current Obama administration.

A few sippets have emerged to explain what Flame was for with one claim being that it was an intelligence-gathering tool to aid the 2010 Stuxnet attacks on Iran's nuclar installations.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by John E Dunn

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place