The man behind the company who discovered Flame, "the most sophisticated cyber-weapon yet unleashed", warns of a "cyber-terror apocalypse".
Reuters reports that Eugene Kaspersky is calling for a global effort to halt emerging cyber-threats, including a possible global Internet blackout and crippling attacks against key infrastructure.
Kaspersky told reporters at a Tel Aviv University cyber-security conference, "It's not cyber-war, it's cyber-terrorism, and I'm afraid the game is just beginning. Very soon, many countries around the world will know it beyond a shadow of a doubt.”
“I'm afraid it will be the end of the world as we know it," he warned. "I'm scared, believe me."
Kaspersky's warning comes soon after researchers at Kaspersky Lab discovered Flame, which is possibly the most complex cyber-threat ever created. The virus infected systems across the Middle East, but it appears that Iran was its primary target.
Researchers state that Flame appears to be a continuation of Stuxnet, which was a revolutionary infrastructure-sabotaging computer worm that infected Iran's uranium enrichment facility at Natanz in 2009-2010.
The West suspects Iran is developing atomic weapons. Tehran denies this and says it is enriching uranium only for civilian use.
Kaspersky states that as Flame is capable of recording audio via a microphone and taking screen shots, it is also capable of turning Bluetooth-enable computers into beacons allowing names and phone numbers to be downloaded from other Blue-tooth enabled devices.
He is certain that a nation-station is behind the cyber-espionage virus. Kaspersky states that the U.S., Britain, China, India, Israel and Russia are among the countries who are currently capable of developing such software. Costs are estimated to be around $100 million to develop such a virus. But he does not limit the threat to these states.
Kaspersky said, "Even those countries that do not yet have the necessary expertise [to create a virus like Flame] can employ engineers or kidnap them, or turn to hackers for help.”
As in the case of Stuxnet, Flame attacks Windows operating systems. Kaspersky states, "Software that manages industrial systems or transportation or power grids or air traffic must be based on secure operating systems. Forget about Microsoft, Linux or Unix."
Kaspersky states that the indiscriminate nature of cyber-weapons is like a "modern-day Pandora's box". Flame and other similar malware cannot be controlled once released.
With a replicating threat that knows no national boundaries, cyber-weapons of this nature can take down infrastructure anywhere in the world and many innocent victims will be affected along the way.
He said, "These ideas are spreading too fast. That cyber-boomerang may get back to you."
Kaspersky believes that cyber-weapons should be treated in the same way as chemical, biological and even nuclear threats.
Kaspersky admits that he watched the 2007 movie "Live Free or Die Hard" and while watching, shouted, “Why are you telling them [how to do this]?”
The plot of the movie revolved around an NYPD detective (played by Bruce Willis), who is fighting a gang of cyber-terrorists targeting FBI computer systems.
Kaspersky states, "Before Die Hard 4.0, the word cyber-terrorism was a taboo in my company. It could not be uttered aloud or discussed with the media. I tried to keep the Pandora’s Box closed. When the film hit the screens, I canceled that ban."
At the conference, Kaspersky spoke alongside Israel Defence Minister Ehud Barak along with top security experts from leading hi-tech companies.
Speaking of taking a more comprehensive approach to deal with cyber-threats, Barak said that it required international cooperation.
Barak said, "The damage you can save yourself from proper defence may be more than what you achieve through the offensive action, though both aspects exist."