18 August 2019
The Regin spyware may be the most sophisticated since Stuxnet. Photo: Twitter
The Regin spyware may be the most sophisticated since Stuxnet. Photo: Twitter

Western spy agency seen behind latest malware

The world’s most sophisticated computer spyware is targeting Russian and Saudi Arabian telecoms companies.

Symantec, a firm that sells antivirus software, said the malware, called “Regin”, is probably being used by a western intelligence agency, the Financial Times reported Monday.

In some ways, it is more advanced than the infamous Stuxnet worm, which was developed by US and Israel government hackers in 2010 to spy on the Iranian nuclear program.

A western security official told the newspaper it was difficult to draw conclusions about the origins or purpose of Regin.

“It’s dangerous to assume that because the malware has apparently been used in a given country, it did not originate there,” the person said. “Certain states and agencies may well use tools of this sort domestically.”

Symantec said it was not yet clear how Regin infected systems but it had been deployed against internet service providers and telecoms companies, mainly in Russia and Saudi Arabia, as well as Mexico, Ireland and Iran.

It said the malware had hacked into Microsoft email exchange servers and mobile phone conversations on major international networks.

Meanwhile, the head of Kaspersky Labs, the Russian company that helped uncover Stuxnet, told the newspaper that criminals are now hacking industrial control systems for financial gain.

Eugene Kaspersky warned that the computer networks that control energy plants and factories are becoming targets for organized crime gangs armed with skilled hackers. 

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