Continued from page 1

“I don’t believe I’ve seen it before,” he said.

Udi Mokady, chief executive of Cyber-Ark, an Israeli developer of information security, said he believes four countries, in no particular order, have the know-how to develop so sophisticated a weapon: Israel, the U.S., China and Russia.

“It was 20 times more sophisticated than Stuxnet,” with thousands of lines of code that took a large team, ample funding and months, if not years, to develop, he said. “It’s a live program that communicates back to its master. It asks, ‘Where should I go? What should I do now?’ It’s really almost like a science fiction movie.”

It’s not clear exactly what the virus was targeting. Kaspersky said it detected the program in hundreds of computers, mainly in Iran but also in Israel, the Palestinian territories, Sudan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

The company would not give details on the victims except to say that they “range from individuals to certain state-related organizations or educational institutions.”

Schouwenberg said stolen data was being sent to some 80 different servers, something that would give the virus’ controllers time to adjust their tactics if they were discovered.

As for Flame’s purpose, “maybe it’s just espionage,” he said. “Maybe it’s also sabotage.”

Teibel reported from Jerusalem. Associated Press writers Diaa Hadid in Jerusalem and Lolita Baldor in Washington also contributed to this report.