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Iran says it has found a new "espionage virus," called Stars, lurking in government computers. The exact nature and effect of the malicious code aren't clear, but with last year's highly destructive Stuxnet cyberattack still fresh on the minds of Iranian security officials, the country is not taking Stars lightly.

Brigadeer General Gholam-Reza Jalali, who commands Iran's Passive Defense Organization, told the semi-official Mehr News Agency, "certain characteristics about the Stars worm have been identified, including that it is compatible with the (targeted) system and that the damage is very slight in the initial stage, and it is likely to be mistaken for executable files of the government."

There's no word on the origin of the attack, but Iran blamed the United States and Israel for Stuxnet, which targeted its nuclear facilities in September 2010 and is thought to have destroyed about one fifth of the country's centrifuges, delaying its production of nuclear weapons (though that is not the country's stated goal for its nuclear program). The origin of Stuxnet has not yet been confirmed, but it emerged in March that the worm had been tested in Israel, and this month Jalali said it has been developed, at least in part, by the German company Siemens.

Iranian officials have denied the seriousness of the Stuxnet attack from the start, and continue to do so in Mehr's article today: "Iranian officials confirmed that some Iranian industrial systems had been targeted by a cyber attack, but insisted that no crashes or serious damage to the country’s industrial computer systems had been reported and said Iranian engineers had rooted out the problem."

Still, Jalali warned that such attacks posed a real threat. "Future worms, which may infect our systems, could be more dangerous than the first ones,” he said.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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