New computer virus targets Middle East

Oct. 15, 2012 at 5:21 PM
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SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 15 (UPI) -- A new kind of state-sponsored malware is loose in the computer wild, apparently designed specifically to spy on its victims, Russian security experts say.

Kaspersky Lab says the new malware variety, dubbed "MiniFlame," is similar to the Flame virus identified last summer as it targeted computers in the Middle East, CNET reported Monday.

MiniFlame is a separate malware strain, though one that can take advantage of PCs infected by malware program like Flame and Gauss, Kaspersky said in a statement.

"First, Flame or Gauss are used to infect as many victims as possible to collect large quantities of information. After data is collected and reviewed, a potentially interesting victim is defined and identified, and MiniFlame is installed in order to conduct more in-depth surveillance and cyber-espionage," the security lab reported.

While only 50 to 60 computers worldwide are estimated to be infected with MiniFlame so far, Kaspersky said, the attacks are focused on infecting specific targets.

"MiniFlame is a high precision attack tool. Most likely it is a targeted cyberweapon used in what can be defined as the second wave of a cyberattack," Alexander Gostev, chief security expert for Kaspersky Lab, said in the statement.

"With Flame, Gauss and MiniFlame, we have probably only scratched [the] surface of the massive cyber-spy operations ongoing in the Middle East," a Kaspersky Lab expert wrote in a blog. "Their true, full purpose remains obscure and the identity of the victims and attackers remain unknown."

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