MOSCOW — When Eugene Kaspersky, the founder of Europe’s largest antivirus company, discovered the Flame virus that is afflicting computers in Iran and the Middle East, he recognized it as a technologically sophisticated virus that only a government could create.
Kapersky Lab, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
He also recognized that the virus, which he compares to the Stuxnetvirus built by programmers employed by the United States and Israel, adds weight to his warnings of the grave dangers posed by governments that manufacture and release viruses on the Internet.
“Cyberweapons are the most dangerous innovation of this century,” he told a gathering of technology company executives, called the CeBIT conference, last month in Sydney, Australia. While the United States and Israel are using the weapons to slow the nuclear bomb-making abilities of Iran, they could also be used to disrupt power grids and financial systems or even wreak havoc with military defenses.
Computer security companies have for years used their discovery of a new virus or worm to call attention to themselves and win more business from companies seeking computer protection. Mr. Kaspersky, a Russian computer security expert, and his company, Kaspersky Lab, are no different in that regard. But he is also using his company’s integral role in exposing or decrypting three computer viruses apparently intended to slow or halt Iran’s nuclear program to argue for an international treaty banning computer warfare.
A growing array of nations and other entities are using online weapons, he says, because they are “thousands of times cheaper” than conventional armaments. Read More
From his first months in office, President Obamasecretly ordered increasingly sophisticated attacks on the computer systems that run Iran’s main nuclear enrichment facilities, significantly expanding America’s first sustained use of cyberweapons, according to participants in the program.
Hasan Sarbakhshian/Associated Press
Iran’s nuclear enrichment facility at Natanz.
Mr. Obama decided to accelerate the attacks — begun in the Bush administration and code-named Olympic Games — even after an element of the program accidentally became public in the summer of 2010 because of a programming error that allowed it to escape Iran’s Natanz plant and sent it around the world on the Internet. Computer security experts who began studying the worm, which had been developed by the United States and Israel, gave it a name: Stuxnet.
At a tense meeting in the White House Situation Room within days of the worm’s “escape,” Mr. Obama, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and the director of the Central Intelligence Agency at the time, Leon E. Panetta, considered whether America’s most ambitious attempt to slow the progress of Iran’s nuclear efforts had been fatally compromised.
“Should we shut this thing down?” Mr. Obama asked, according to members of the president’s national security team who were in the room.
Told it was unclear how much the Iranians knew about the code, and offered evidence that it was still causing havoc, Mr. Obama decided that the cyberattacks should proceed. In the following weeks, the Natanz plant was hit by a newer version of the computer worm, and then another after that. The last of that series of attacks, a few weeks after Stuxnet was detected around the world, temporarily took out nearly 1,000 of the 5,000 centrifuges Iran had spinning at the time to purify uranium. Read More
Researchers at Kaspersky Lab have uncovered a massive cyber threat, dubbed Flame, that is targeting “sensitive” information across the Middle East.
The malware, Kaspersky said, “might be the most sophisticated cyber weapon yet unleashed.”
Once deployed, Flame can sniff network traffic, take screenshots, record audio conversations, intercept a keyboard, and more, Kaspersky said. All of this data is then available via Flame’s command-and-control servers.
Iran has thus far been hardest hit by Flame, with at least 189 infections. Israel/Palestine came in second with 98, followed by Sudan (32), Syria (30), Lebanon (18), Saudi Arabia (10), and Egypt (5).
Kaspersky has not identified any specific organization that Flame is targeting. “From the initial analysis, it looks like the creators of Flame are simply looking for any kind of intelligence – emails, documents, messages, discussions inside sensitive locations, pretty much everything,” Kaspersky’s Alexander Gostev wrote in a blog post. “We have not seen any specific signs indicating a particular target such as the energy industry – making us believe it’s a complete attack toolkit designed for general cyber-espionage purposes.” Read More
The United States opened its banking market to China’s biggest bank ICBC, for the first time clearing a takeover of a US bank by a Chinese state-controlled company.
Just days after high-level US-China economic talks in Beijing, the Federal Reserve approved an application from Industrial and Commercial Bank of China to buy a majority stake in the US subsidiary of Bank of East Asia.
The transaction will make ICBC the first Chinese state-controlled bank to acquire retail bank branches in the United States.
ICBC has been the most aggressive of China’s “big four” banks in expanding abroad.
Outside China, it operates subsidiary banks in Asian countries and has branches in a number of countries including Germany, Japan and Singapore.
According to the Fed, the bank has total assets of roughly $2.5 trillion.
ICBC will buy up to 80 percent of the US unit of the Hong Kong-based Bank of East Asia, which operates 13 branches in New York and California. Read More
Silence and the odd outburst from accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others resulted in delays during their arraignment Saturday in Guantanamo Bay.
A hearing before a military judge that could have lasted minutes instead stretched into hours.
Court was still going strong Saturday night, when the charges against the five suspects were being read.
It was Mohammed and four others’ first appearance in a military courtroom since being charged a month ago.
Along with Mohammed, the others are Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarak Bin ‘Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi.
The men are charged with terrorism, hijacking aircraft, conspiracy, murder in violation of the law of war, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, intentionally causing serious bodily injury and destruction of property in violation of the law of war.
The silence from the defendants — some ignored the judge and others appeared to be reading — slowed the proceedings to a crawl. Read More
The United States ambassador, Ryan C. Crocker, and Afghanistan’s national security adviser, Rangin Spanta, completed the wording of the draft, which will now be sent to President Hamid Karzai and to the Afghan Parliament for review and approval before it is signed by the presidents of both countries, according to American and Afghan officials.
“We believe we have a final text which will be presented to the president and also presented to Parliament for final consultation and approval before the signature by the two presidents,” said an Afghan official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the official did not have permission to speak to the news media.
“It covers the broad spectrum of the existing, broad-based, comprehensive partnership between the two countries with the view towards sustaining that for at least another decade beyond the end of transition in 2014,” the official said.
The document outlines the two countries’ future relationship rather than specifying exact amounts of support or programs, but officials from both countries have said that they hope that it will send a signal to insurgents and other destabilizing forces here that the United States is not going to abandon Afghanistan as it did in the 1990s after the Soviets were driven out. Rather, the Americans will continue to support the country in many areas.
Negotiations on the document started more than nine months ago but were delayed repeatedly over the sensitive issues of night raids by American troops and the American operation of detention facilities.
Ultimately negotiators agreed to write detailed separate agreements on those two issues and signed a memorandum of understanding on the transfer of detention operations to the Afghan government in March. In April, they signed a companion memorandum handing final authority on night raids to Afghan security forces, who are now carrying out all raids unless American assistance is requested.
With those two issues resolved, the strategic partnership moved quickly to completion. The document promises American economic development support for Afghanistan and help in fields like agriculture and education, as well as security. It does not include any specific commitment of foreign aid because that amount must be authorized and appropriated by Congress and can not be committed by the executive branch. Read More