A sophisticated computer virus that infiltrated and spied on Iranian networks was reportedly coded by the United States and Israel.
The existence of the Flame virus was confirmed last month after Iran publicly acknowledged a series of cyber attacks executed against its lucrative oil industry.
According to the Washington Post, the virus collected intelligence in preparation for a sophisticated campaign of "cyber-sabotage," with the goal of slowing Teheran's ability to develop a functional nuclear weapon.
Indeed, the complex malware managed to secretly map and monitor Iran's computer networks, transmitting a "steady stream" of intelligence back to its human handlers.
"This is about preparing the battlefield for another type of covert action," one former high-ranking US intelligence official told the WaPost. "Cyber-collection against the Iranian program is way further down the road than this."
To be sure, security researchers have categorized Flame as one of the most subversive pieces of malware ever created, as it is capable of replicating across highly secure networks, while controlling day-to-day functions without detection.
Masquerading as a routine Microsoft software update, the malware activated computer microphones and cameras, logged keyboard strokes, took screen shots, extracted geolocation data from images, and sent and received commands and data via Bluetooth.
"This is not something that most security researchers have the skills or resources to do," added Tom Parker, chief technology officer for FusionX, a security firm that specializes in simulating state-sponsored cyber attacks. "You'd expect that of only the most advanced cryptomathematicians, such as those working at NSA."