Telecom companies in Russia and Saudi Arabia have been hit by the world’s most sophisticated hacking software to date.

Symantec believes a Western intelligence agency is responsible.

Please consider World’s Most Advanced Hacking Spyware Let Loose

A cyber snooping operation reminiscent of the Stuxnet worm and billed as the world’s most sophisticated computer malware is targeting Russian and Saudi Arabian telecoms companies.

Cyber security company Symantec said the malware, called “Regin”, is probably run by a western intelligence agency and in some respects is more advanced in engineering terms than Stuxnet, which was developed by US and Israel government hackers in 2010 to target the Iranian nuclear programme.

The discovery of the latest hacking software comes as the head of Kaspersky Labs, the Russian company that helped uncover Stuxnet, told the Financial Times that criminals are now also hacking industrial control systems for financial gain.

“Nothing else comes close to this . . . nothing else we look at compares,” said Orla Cox, director of security response at Symantec, who described Regin as one of the most “extraordinary” pieces of hacking software developed, and probably “months or years in the making”.

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.

The security software group said Regin could be customised to target different organisations and had hacked Microsoft email exchange servers and mobile phone conversations on major international networks.

“We are probably looking at some sort of western agency,” Ms Cox said. “Sometimes there is virtually nothing left behind – no clues. Sometimes an infection can disappear completely almost as soon as you start looking at it, it’s gone. That shows you what you are dealing with.”

Do Dirty Work Then Leave

The software somehow attaches itself, does the dirty work of stealing files or whatever, then vanishes without much of a trace, apparently deleting its presence.

It’s unknown who did this but I side with Symantec, more specifically willing to suggest the NSA.

Whether or not my suspicions are correct, it’s no wonder people want encryption that no one can beat.

Regardless who is responsible, I cheer developments like this development courtesy of Harvard and MIT students: Easy to Use Email So Secure NSA Cannot Break It; What About NSA Other Attacks?

This is what it had to come down to. Government nonsensically spying on everyone led to a more-secure service that freedom lovers and criminals alike will embrace.

By the way, the encryption might be secure, but that will not stop the NSA from hijacking entire computers.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock