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U.S. Denies Using Flame Malware To Spy On French President

Unknown Lamer posted about 2 years ago | from the mailbomb-csim-morse-baguette dept.

Security 52

CowboyRobot writes with the (not unexpected) official U.S. denial of using the Flame malware to spy on France. From the article: "That allegation was leveled at the U.S. government by unnamed French officials, according to a Tuesday report in the weekly French newspaper L'Express. It reported that computers belonging to top advisers to then French president Nicolas Sarkozy had been hacked using the Flame cyberespionage malware, which was designed to be used in highly targeted attacks... Napolitano was also asked if it wasn't ironic that while the United States has been sounding alarms over the growing amount of malware that's targeting U.S. government system, it also commissioning the Stuxnet and Flame cyber-espionage malware used against Iran. Napolitano, however, pled official ignorance. 'These programs were never attributed in any way to the U.S. government.'"

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I find this denial very truthful... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42073451)

and it hence gives us a very warm feeling of comfort and solace; which is very important between two nations known for very cordial relations.

Re:I find this denial very truthful... (2)

durrr (1316311) | about 2 years ago | (#42073571)

They didn't use Flame to spy on the president. They have other spyware for that.

Re:I find this denial very truthful... (1)

captainpanic (1173915) | about 2 years ago | (#42073631)

They didn't use Flame to spy on just the French president.

Re:I find this denial very truthful... (2)

flyingsquid (813711) | about 2 years ago | (#42080211)

The location of the computers targeted by Flame tells you a lot about the people behind it. When initial reports came out about Flame, it was revealed that it primarily targeted Iran (189 infections), with additional infections in Israel/Palestine (89), Sudan (32), Syria (30) and Lebanon (18). The focus on Iran suggests the U.S. and/or Israel as being behind Flame. However, the remainder of the list focuses on countries that pose a threat to Israel, as opposed to countries that would be of more interest to U.S. security (Pakistan, Afghanistan). That always made me suspect Israel, but one thing never made sense. Why the interest in Sudan, of all places?

Recent events shed some light on this. The missiles used by Hamas to attack Israel are manufactured by Iran, and then smuggled via Egypt into Gaza. But how do they get from Iran into Egypt? Through Sudan. And Israel appears to have been working actively to stop this. On October 28, eight Israeli Air Force F-15s flew 1200 miles into Sudanese airspace, supported by a tanker and a jamming plane, and dropped four 1,000 pound bombs on a weapons factory. That's the kind of operation where you need good intelligence to find your targets and assess their defenses.

So up to now, the evidence points squarely at Israel as being the people behind Flame. The possibility exists that the U.S. had a hand in developing it, but the targets have been people of interest to Israel. I can't figure out why on earth they would target Sarkozy, but it seems far more likely to me that the Israelis would target him for some devious scheme of theirs, than that Obama would risk alienating a fellow NATO member and an ally.

Re:I find this denial very truthful... (4, Interesting)

davecb (6526) | about 2 years ago | (#42073621)

And in the spirit of "truthyness", they said they didn't spy on the French Government, but instead on the advisers to a candidate during an election which he eventually lost. Just a tiny bit different from spying on the President. Perhaps they were only spying on his political advisers in any case.

Actually, I think it was Francois Hollande spying on Sarco's election campaign (:-))

--dave

Re:I find this denial very truthful... (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 2 years ago | (#42074267)

But he was actually president at the time of the spying because he was the incumbent.

Unpossible! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42073467)

This cannot be! Denials are useless! America is always at fault for everything that goes wrong everywhere in the entire world.

Re:Unpossible! (1)

captainpanic (1173915) | about 2 years ago | (#42073637)

This cannot be! Denials are useless! America is always at fault for everything that goes wrong everywhere in the entire world.

That is true, unless they can blame another country for something it didn't do!

Re:Unpossible! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42073655)

To be fair, it usually is.

U.S. Denies Using Flame Malware To Spy On French (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42073527)

U.S. Denies Using Flame Malware To Spy On French President

So what did they use to spy on him then?

Re:U.S. Denies Using Flame Malware To Spy On Frenc (2)

JustOK (667959) | about 2 years ago | (#42073711)

le flamé

Re:U.S. Denies Using Flame Malware To Spy On Frenc (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | about 2 years ago | (#42073749)

touché

Re:U.S. Denies Using Flame Malware To Spy On Frenc (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 2 years ago | (#42074105)

Non! "Le Flamé Royale"!

Re:U.S. Denies Using Flame Malware To Spy On Frenc (3, Funny)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 2 years ago | (#42074161)

Non! "Le Flamé Royale"!

With Cheese.

Re:U.S. Denies Using Flame Malware To Spy On Frenc (2)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about 2 years ago | (#42074389)

Royal flaming cheese head?

Don't mine me. I'm monolingual, but I thought that almost made sense.

Re:U.S. Denies Using Flame Malware To Spy On Frenc (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42075783)

Royal flaming cheese head?

Don't mine me. I'm monolingual, but I thought that almost made sense.

You're barely monolingual....

Re:U.S. Denies Using Flame Malware To Spy On Frenc (1)

Pieroxy (222434) | about 2 years ago | (#42074419)

Non! "Le Flamé Royale"!

With Cheese.

Extra Bacon?

Re:U.S. Denies Using Flame Malware To Spy On Frenc (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 2 years ago | (#42074457)

Non! "Le Flamé Royale"!

With Cheese.

Extra Bacon?

Pigs are filthy animals.

Re:U.S. Denies Using Flame Malware To Spy On Frenc (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42074525)

which is why americans love bacon

Re:U.S. Denies Using Flame Malware To Spy On Frenc (1)

cusco (717999) | about 2 years ago | (#42075893)

Still cleaner than most 2 year-old children . . .

Re:U.S. Denies Using Flame Malware To Spy On Frenc (1)

Anubis IV (1279820) | about 2 years ago | (#42076563)

Whoosh.

It's a Pulp Fiction reference. In the film, there's a famous discussion where they talk about how the McDonald's burger known as the "Quarter Pounder" in America is called a "Royale with Cheese" over in France. Hence the "with Cheese" statement here after the word "Royale" was used.

Re:U.S. Denies Using Flame Malware To Spy On Frenc (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42091461)

Or... it wasn't him the FBI perverts were spying on, it was his wife.

Why would they want to spy on france? (1)

Viol8 (599362) | about 2 years ago | (#42073535)

To see how the bad the presidents love life is to make themselves feel better? Or if this was a few years ago perhaps they just wanted to hear Carli Bruni singing in the bath?

Re:Why would they want to spy on france? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42073633)

French President Sarkozy criticized Israeli PM Netanyahu, and of course, we can't just let him get away with that.

Re:Why would they want to spy on france? (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about 2 years ago | (#42076815)

France has often gone its own way - from banking with gold, post ww2 occupation of Germany, pre Vietnam, weapon sales, NATO nuclear policy, 'freedom fighter' support in Libya, Syria...
Aerospace, advanced space platforms, bridge building/telco/dams/nuclear/oil/mining contracts- France is just very good at building stuff at a fair rate or for its friends around the world and the USA sees that as its unique profit pool.
France knows the NSA loves to watch French trade deals and all French political leaders and report on any trade deals not won by the USA.
Options:
Did something very bad happen in Libya wrt to Syria and SAM like systems?
Is France going its own way with Syrian "freedom fighters" and offering much more exotic weapons found in Libya? Are some parts of the US gov very upset?
Is the USA going its own way with Syrian "freedom fighters" and offering much more exotic weapons found in Libya? Are some parts of the French very gov upset?
As for why?
France knows of ECHELON, they know of the origins of Flame....
Why is France running Windows at that level on the 'net'? Why would the US do this to France in such an open, foolish way?
Or was a well known 3rd party playing games with the French/US relationship and wanted a public 'issue' out the story.
The final option? The USA watches France and its trade but older US spies should recall Vladimir Vetrov- France was very helpful to the US - Has the US lost control of a part of its new "younger" cyber command?

Re:Why would they want to spy on france? (1)

manu0601 (2221348) | about 2 years ago | (#42079455)

Why is France running Windows at that level on the 'net'?

Change is always seen as annoying by users, and top level executive users have power to resist change, if they are stupid enough to not understand why they need it. I am not sure french military security experts would have been able to impose something to Sarkozy and its counselors

Who'd want to spy on the French? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42073543)

America has plenty of cheese and whine. We don't need what the French have.

First rule of politics... (4, Insightful)

Kergan (780543) | about 2 years ago | (#42073551)

Never believe anything until it's been officially denied. (source [wikipedia.org] )

Re:First rule of politics... (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 2 years ago | (#42073693)

That's hilarious they actually made a computer game out of that.

It almost seems to be a prequel to Brazil.

How sincere... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42073569)

F: Hey, USA, did you eat my last cupcake?
USA: The consumption of the last cupcake was never attributed in any way to me.
F: I see. But did you eat it?
USA: Beyond this point, your question presupposes a yes or no answer...
F: Well, yes, I want to know if you ate it...
USA: ...while my job is to, er, increase the protection of cupcakes using all the means available to me.
F: Okaayy... you ate it, didn't you?
USA: Look, to do this, my cupcake procurement and protection budget has been increased 40% last year, and will increases another 75% next year. Everyone's cupcakes will be safer!
F: Wow, thanks! But I notice you didn't actually deny taking my cupcake.
USA: Sorry, I have to go now.

Very funny (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42073629)

No, Flame isn't from the US. The greatest joke is the offical response from the US embassy:

Nous réfutons catégoriquement les allégations de sources non-identifiées, parues dans un article de l'Express, selon lesquelles le gouvernement des Etats-Unis d'Amérique aurait participé à une cyberattaque contre le gouvernement français. La France est l'un de nos meilleurs alliés. Notre coopération est remarquable dans les domaines du renseignement, du maintien de l'ordre et de la cyberdéfense.

Flame is a cooperation of the United States with Israel. You could read that in the Washington Post.

Re:Very funny (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42073679)

At the heart of all plots and intrigue, there you will find the jew.

what... (1)

nozzo (851371) | about 2 years ago | (#42073659)

did they expect them to say? Oh yeah, my bad, we did it for the lolz. (speaking in the style of Steve Martin in Pink Panther)

Closed Source dangers (2)

Seeteufel (1736784) | about 2 years ago | (#42073733)

FLAME is W32 malware. The French President Hollande should invest into a national operating system based on the Linux kernel for public administration and ban Closed Source software from public desks. The European Parliament warned in 2001 in its Echolon Spy System report but Mr. Sarkozy didn't listen:

Calls on the Commission and Member States to promote software projects whose source text is made public (open-source software), as this is the only way of guaranteeing that no backdoors are built into programmes;

Re:Closed Source dangers (2)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | about 2 years ago | (#42073747)

Do you really want national intelligence agencies to be focusing their efforts on linux spyware?

Re:Closed Source dangers (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42073811)

Do you really want national intelligence agencies to be focusing their efforts on linux spyware?

Of course. After all, the GPL would force that spyware to be Open Source, and then you wouldn't need that tedious reverse-engineering!

Re:Closed Source dangers (1)

Seeteufel (1736784) | about 2 years ago | (#42073823)

I think open source gets it safer, and security holes get plugged in a faster pace. Many nations successfully developed their National Operating Systems and were not targeted. Russia for example is very active behind the scenes [rbth.ru] .

Re:Closed Source dangers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42075487)

The European Parliament is just for approving the French agricultural subsidies at the cost of other EU areas, to enforce the exclusive rights to Champagne and Cognac, and to make sure all the bananas sold in the EU have the right curvature. As long as Echelon is not an agricultural product, the French don't care.

Re:Closed Source dangers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42075997)

The french government has access to w32 source code just like every other major government.

Re:Closed Source dangers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42079209)

That would be great. We need more companies like ThinkPenguin (and NOT system76) who understand the problems with getting free software to the masses. It's not just a matter of having computer systems available for purchase. It is a matter of having free software friendly hardware available. It takes both support AND accessories to make GNU/Linux feasible for the masses.

You have both the open source advocates and the free software advocates bitching about non-free software and yet it is only the free software advocates who are admitting that non-free software is an issue.

What governments, corporations, organizations, and users need to understand is that free software doesn't mean you that there are no costs even if the total costs are less. The benefits are elsewhere. There are few organizations that really seem to understand that.

Non-free software creates all sorts of problems for support reasons that your technical user just isn't getting. Unfortunately that is all the “windows administrators” and Linux gurus alike.

In the web server arena it seems more clear cut. However in other areas such as the desktop few are willing tread. If large corporations and governments would invest in the free software they use rather than stealing the funds which would otherwise go to software for other purposes there would be no differentiation in feature sets available. There is no reason they can't have every feature they could possibly want.

IF ONLY ASSANGE WERE ALIVE TODAY !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42074119)

Alas, poor Yorick Slashers, we would have the TRUTH !!

Of course they deny it. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42074315)

Whenever you get caught doing something you deny it. Thats the first rule of doing shit youre not supposed to do. Hell if the government will deny when their own special forces gets caught or killed by the enemy why should they fess up to a computer virus when human life means so little to them?

Rule of life to live by...

Never write anything down.
No video.
No pictures.
Deny, deny, deny.

Re:Of course they deny it. (3, Insightful)

tehpuppet (1065678) | about 2 years ago | (#42076161)

Exactly, like the time the French government denied attacking a civilian ship in New Zealand, murdering one of the crew members in the process. Then when caught, lied to the UN about punishing the agents involved.

MPAA and RIAA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42074415)

'nuff said

Why... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42074575)

would we want to spy on the French president?

Re:Why... (0)

PPH (736903) | about 2 years ago | (#42074677)

Not Hollande. But the Petraeus was probably trying to enable Sarkozy's web cam hoping to get a peek at Carla Bruni walking around in her underwear.

Why not truth? (1)

PTBarnum (233319) | about 2 years ago | (#42075345)

I wish they would just say something like "Of course we are spying on the French president. We spy on everyone, friend and foe alike. That's our job. And if you aren't spying on us then you should fire your incompetent intelligence staff and find better ones."

Not Amerika, say it ain't so??? (1)

sgt_doom (655561) | about 2 years ago | (#42075519)

I can't for one moment believe that could ever be true? The USA? Not the USA where the DIA has had at least several members of the richest families in America at its help since its inception by McNamara?

Sure, John Negroponte (recently noted at an Aspen Institute gathering on intelligence, along with fave biographer of Petraues, Paula Broadwell, who managed to do his biography while she was doing the general) and Frank Wisner, Jr. (still hasn't figured out the CIA murdered his dad????) put together that Franco-American Foundation to screw Sarkozy's competitor in the first presidential election, but I just can't believe the USA would continue to do such horrific stuff!!!!!

Uh oh! My French poodle, curiously enough named after Sarkozy, is getting upset and I must ran to feed him.....

Re:Not Amerika, say it ain't so??? (1)

sgt_doom (655561) | about 2 years ago | (#42075539)

Meant to say helm, not "help" ....

Was it talking to the same C&C servers, or not (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42076171)

Even if the U.S. government originally wrote Flame, and used it to spy on and map out Iranian facilities in preparation for their Stuxnet attack... the fact is that once its on machines in the wild, anyone with access to the machine who notices that it is there, can get access to it. That's the problem with malware and backdoors--anybody who knows about them can use them.

We know security researchers got samples of it, and analysed it to figure out how it works. Criminal organizations probably also got samples of it and did their own study (and/or read the published results of the aforementioned researchers). Its easier to repurpose someone else's malware than the write your own.

The real question is : when Flame was being used to spy on the French president (or political advisors, or whatever) whose command and control servers was it talking to ? Was it reporting to the same servers (presumably run by the U.S. government) that the copies installed in Iran were reporting to? If so, then that lends credence to the theory that the U.S. was behind it.

But if it was reporting to some different servers somewhere else, then it could be anyone behind it--any government, or criminal gang, or multinational corporation. It could be some hackers in a garage in Russia or some state-sponsored attackers in China or some European corporation that does a lot of business in France. It could even be political rivals of the target.

What about Israel? (1)

manu0601 (2221348) | about 2 years ago | (#42079379)

L'Express have been quick to point US responsability. While we could imagine that a third party got Flame sources, it would still have required top skills to use it. The best suspects are therefore the original authors. But US did not produce Flame alone, they did it with Israel. Why not suspect Israel?

What I find most concerning.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42090423)

What I find most concerning isn't the denial of the US that they had involvement, and it's not the spying in itself... what's most concerning to me is that these "top officials" and advisors were stupid enough to 1. Friend some of the attackers via Facebook and 2. Were daft enough to click on strange links to strange downloads from said attackers which follows to 3. Entered their usernames and passwords on strange phishing sites.

Seriously, I don't quite understand how people can still be so uneducated in the ways of the Internet as to fall for phishing scams. I think before you are given the keys and sent on your way, you should be taught how to drive. That is to say, perhaps for new users, Internet browsers should take people through some kind of pop-quiz style Q&A about what types of URLs and links are safe and which aren't.

Further, quite a few modern browsers have built-in phishing detection and prevention. Assuming that at least SOME of those preventative measures worked, we're then assuming that these top advisors were still stupid enough to dismiss the warnings and continue anyway.

While not surprising that our societies are run by these people... it's concerning.

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