Flame virus — an opportunity to crow about US cyberwar

Posted in Crazy Weapons, Culture of Lickspittle, Cyberterrorism at 1:40 pm by George Smith

Robert Windrem used to be a national security affairs journalist who wrote books and did television. He was often very good and twenty years ago I saw him as a brief lecturer at a Knight Fellowship seminar on nuclear proliferation for reporters given at the University of Maryland. (I was a journalist granted a fellowship to attend it.)

But now he’s a much older man. Journalists sometimes don’t age well. Once cutting edge, then out of it and turned to shite when subjects and the times advance.

Today Windrem tackles the Flame virus for MSNBC.

It’s an opportunity to talk with people eager to give the United States credit for it. And to brag some more about how sophisticated and everything else it is:

As the United Nations and Iran warn that the newly discovered Flame computer virus may be the most potent weapon of its kind, U.S. computer security experts tell NBC News that the virus bears the hallmarks of a U.S. cyber espionage operation, specifically that of the super-secret National Security Agency …

“It was U.S.,” said [one anonymous] official, who acknowledged having no first-hand knowledge of how the virus operates or was introduced into the Iranian computers …

U.S. intelligence officials declined to discuss the virus. “We have no comment,” said one …

The virus was first discovered and announced over the weekend by a Russian cybersecurity organization after reports of massive data losses in Iranian government computers …

[I guess you could call Kaspersky Labs a “cybersecurity organization.” No one seems to have informed Windrem that the global corporate anti-virus business has been around for a long time and has a sizable US sales and advertising footprint.]

“From reading press reports, this appears to be penetrating networks to surveil, as opposed to destroy, as was the case with Stuxnet,” said Michael Leiter, former director of the National Counter Terrorism Center and now an NBC News analyst …

If this is indeed a U.S. cyberwarfare operation, said computer security expert Roger Cressey, the target is likely to be Iran’s nuclear program and its decision-making apparatus.

“Whoever has developed this is engaged in very sophisticated intelligence gathering on computer networks throughout the region. Clearly, Iran is a top priority for this program,” said Cressey, former chief of staff of the President’s Critical Infrastructure Protection Board under George W. Bush and now an NBC News analyst …

[Roger Cressey is a long-time flunky associate of Richard Clarke’s at Good Harbor although now he is at Booz Allen Hamilton. Both are sources of cyberwar hype because defense against it is a core business operation. Windrem does not disclose this. Notice this is a good gig. You can be a paid “analyst” for a news operation on the same subject as your core business role and the news operation won’t tell the rubes.]

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said that the work of Kaspersky Labs helped Iran uncover the infection and remove it from the centrifuge control program.

[I’ve emphasized this is a good thing. Vigorous anti-virus company competition in the global industry makes finding and neutralizing state-designed viruses a business asset. So the social good on the Internet is served by messing up, completely terminating or exposing various aspects of cyberwar operations.]

Cybersecurity officials have told NBC News that the [Stuxnet] infection, while heavily publicized, was not as effective in disrupting Iran’s nuclear program as has been portrayed in some media accounts.

And that’s never been a surprise.

One of Windrem’s sources tells him the virus attacks make Iranian officials “paranoid.”

They’ve always been paranoid, though. So making them more so means better?


  1. Robert Windrem said,

    May 31, 2012 at 4:48 am

    A lot of us don’t age well. Perhaps I should have stopped aging.

    Alas, that wasn’t possible.

    Personal attacks based on age should be beneath you.

  2. George Smith said,

    May 31, 2012 at 7:41 am

    You’re right and I apologize for it.

  3. John Young said,

    May 31, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    Some of us get attacked for staying alive too long the same way we did back then.