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A computer virus with a secret purpose nobody can guess

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 12th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

A mysterious computer virus has infected computers across Israel, Lebanon, and Palestine, but analysts are unsure of its ultimate purpose. They believe the virus targets banking information, but say that they have also successfully shut down the servers managing the virus, rendering it dormant.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Moscow-based Kaspersky labs just announced their analysis of a mysterious computer virus known as "Gauss." The virus was discovered in June and notably infected computers in Israel, Lebanon, and Palestine. 

In July, the servers controlling the virus were supposedly shut down, and now analysts are trying to unlock two secrets they believe may be buried deep in the malware's code. 

The first, who is responsible for it, may never be resolved. Analysts are saying that the code is sophisticated and very similar to a series of viruses aimed at Iran, notably the Stuxnet and Duqu viruses, which targeted that country's nuclear program. Kaspersky Lab believes the malware was created by a nation state's intelligence service, or a collaboration between services in countries such as the US and Israel. 

Certainly, the malware appears to have an intelligence-gathering capability, specifically targeting banking information in the middle east, without actually stealing any money. 

The virus also has the ability to transfer itself via USB device to computers that are unconnected to the internet. Once infected, computers will transmit information back via USB, thus giving controllers access to information stored off the internet. All a user needs to do is plug in the USB device and the virus goes to work. 

However, the second mystery is even more intriguing. Despite the program's ability to steal and report banking information, there is embedded deep within the virus, some highly encrypted code that even Kaspersky's technicians cannot seem to unravel. Just what that code is, or does, remains a mystery. 

Some speculate the code may actually be malicious software designed to do specific harm, much like Stuxnet was designed to specifically target centrifuges and ruin the uranium enrichment process for Iran.

For now, the virus appears neutered, and is no longer a continuing threat, thanks to the shutdown of its servers. However, whoever attempted this project will certainly try again, and it certainly doesn't appear to be their first time trying. 

 

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