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Israeli officials deny involvement in Iran nuclear hack ploy

By Andrew V. Pestano
Israeli officials deny involvement in Iran nuclear hack ploy
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotlvely has denied Israeli involvement in a hacking event on nuclear negotiations with Iran. Photo courtesy of The Knesset/State of Israel

JERUSALEM, June 11 (UPI) -- Israeli officials have denied allegations that the country used a virus to spy on the Iranian nuclear negotiations that involved Western countries, including the United States.

"There is no basis for the reports on Israel's involvement in this," Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotlvely said. "It is much more important to us to prevent a bad agreement from being signed. Otherwise we will find ourselves under an Iranian 'nuclear umbrella.'"

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Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab ZAO said in a statement on Wednesday that "Duqu" malware was found in three unnamed hotels immediately prior to talks between the United States and Iran over a proposed nuclear deal.

The firm itself was hacked by the malware, allegedly developed in Israel and used by Israeli intelligence agencies, and found the hotels' computers were also invaded when it searched for other victims of the scheme.

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Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan also denied the allegations, calling them "utter nonsense."

"Israel does not use such methods, and we already have sufficient methods to find out what is going on in the talks without having to resort to hacking," he added.

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Yitzhak Ben-Israel, chairman of the Israel Space Agency, also denied Israeli involvement.

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"These viruses are found on millions of computers around the world. It's similar to a mass virus that is spread between people -- trying to track down the origin of a virus is speculative. There is often no way to pinpoint the culprit," he said.

Venues used for the negotiations include luxury hotels in Lausanne, Montreux and Geneva, Switzerland; Vienna, Austria and Munich, Germany. U.S. intelligence regards the "Duqu" infections as Israeli intelligence operations, the Kaspersky report said.

Ed Adamczyk contributed to this report.

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