Earlier in March, Israel was accused of spying on international talks over Iran’s nuclear program. And now, a new investigation by a Russian cybersecurity firm has apparently found a powerful computer virus that may have been used to carry out espionage at luxury hotels used as venues for the negotiations.
While Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab revealed that the malware used was so sophisticated that it must have been masterminded by a government, a direct link to Israel wasn’t established.
Eugene Kaspersky, chairman of the company, however, told reporters in Moscow, that it was probably pulled off by a state whose spying and technological capabilities are “Kind of a mix of ‘Alien,’ ‘Terminator’ and ‘Predator.’”
"The thinking behind it is a generation ahead of anything we'd seen earlier — it uses a number of tricks that make it really difficult to detect and neutralize," the CEO and co-founder stated separately in a blog post.
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The virus, known as Duqu 2.0, was used to attack three European luxury hotels where the P5+1 talks were held over a period of 18 months. The Guardian explains:
“The worm infects computer systems through network gateways and firewalls, the parts of a computer system exposed to the internet. Once on target computers it remains hidden, staying in the computer’s memory and leaving no trace of infection on the computer’s hard drive, making it difficult to detect.”
Although Kaspersky wasn’t immediately able to find the target and extent of the hack, the security firm said the malware may have allowed “eavesdropping on conversations, stealing files, and gain control of any computer-linked system at the hotel, such as phones, elevators and alarms.”
In fact, the virus probably had access to the hotel’s front-desk computers where important information, such as the room umbers of all the officials participating in the negotiations, were stored.
What’s even more intriguing than Kaspersky’s discovery is the fact that none of the hotels that hosted the top-secret talks were aware of a security breach in their systems, according to BuzzFeed.
Kaspersky’s findings were confirmed by rival American antivirus company Symantec – but they too didn’t confirm the source of the attack.