The life and death of the Flame super-virus that infected thousands of computers worldwide has ignited the human imagination more than any fictional yarn spun by Jules Verne. Iran was left exposed, almost stark naked. It sustained immeasurable damage that not even its own leaders can estimate.
For five years, the malware that spread like a plague attacked countless computers across the globe. It is possible that Israel or Egypt or other countries were attacked by the virus, without its sender even knowing it would come back to bite them.
There is no doubt that Flame was created by a state that is cyber superpower and is prepared to invest huge sums in inflicting damage on its adversaries. The virus has been described as unprecedented, and has the ability to bypass various defense mechanisms. Former National Security Adviser and former top Mossad official Uzi Arad on Tuesday reflected on the virus from a bird's-eye view of human history. He said that until now, World War II has shaped the future battlefield, with its cannons, tanks, missiles, planes and the mushroom cloud from the Americans' atomic bomb. Now that has changed.
According to Arad, the precursor to contemporary computers created by Alan Turing during World War II has become the spearhead, so to speak, of modern-day warfare. The Flame virus is a clear reflection of that and no one knows where it will lead. Experts have disagreed about whether Flame was a success or a failure: Some former senior officials in the defense establishment have said that the fact that it was discovered and that it did not contain a self-destruct mechanism proves it is a failure. Yet high-tech experts have expressed the opposite view.
The virus is tremendously potent. It has powers that may not be clear to those who discovered it. A virus like this is under constant risk of exposure, just like a living, breathing spy. But if it managed to go undetected for five years, that is quite an achievement.
As far as the virus' operators go, the question is not whether the fall of their Trojan horse into enemy hands is a failure, but whether they have already raised and nurtured another, more modern horse that can be set loose on its target destination. Flame's true test will be the virus that follows it. Stage after stage, virus after virus.
It's natural for Iran to blame Israel for this cyberattack. There's no need for Israel to confirm or deny involvement. While there is some satisfaction in believing this was an Israeli-produced virus, no one is looking to copyright it. The Americans are pros in this field, and experts believe they have stockpiles of such material ready for the future — when they take part in true cyberwarfare among superpowers.
It's obvious that wunderkinds are working all over the world to build the next generation of viruses, and even the next generation after that. If they are teeming with the pioneering spirit of those who lead mankind to a different place, they can program the virus using the Hebrew song "You and I Can Change the World." And how.