By Jim Finkle
(Reuters) – Researchers have found evidence suggesting that the United States may have developed three previously unknown computer viruses for use in espionage operations or cyber warfare.
The findings are likely to bolster a growing view that the U.S. government is using cyber technology more widely than previously believed to further its interests in the Middle East. The United States has already been linked to the Stuxnet Trojan that attacked Iran’s nuclear program in 2010 and the sophisticated Flame cyber surveillance tool that was uncovered in May.
Anti-virus software makers Symantec Corp of the United States and Kaspersky Lab of Russia disclosed on Monday that they have found evidence that Flame’s operators may have also worked with three other viruses that have yet to be discovered.
The two security firms, which conducted their analyses separately, declined to comment on who was behind Flame. But current and former Western national security officials have told Reuters that the United States played a role in creating Flame. The Washington Post has reported that Israel was also involved.
Current and former U.S. government sources also told Reuters that the United States was behind Stuxnet. Kaspersky and Symantec linked Stuxnet to Flame in June, saying that part of the Flame program is nearly identical to code found in a 2009 version of Stuxnet.
For now, the two firms know very little about the newly identified viruses, except that one of them is currently deployed in the Middle East. They are not sure what the malicious software was designed to do. “It could be anything,” said Costin Raiu, director of Kaspersky Lab’s Global Research and Analysis Team.