Security experts discovered the new data-stealing virus dubbed 'Flame' which they say has lurked inside thousands of computers across the Middle East for as long as five years
Jerusalem: An unprecedented "cyber espionage worm" considered the most sophisticated spyware virus yet unleashed, attributed to a "state player", has hit Iran and other Middle Eastern (ME) countries with the possible goal of foiling Tehran's nuclear ambitions, reports PTI.
Security experts discovered the new data-stealing virus dubbed 'Flame' which they say has lurked inside thousands of computers across the Middle East for as long as five years as part of a sophisticated cyber warfare campaign.
Russia-based Internet security company Kaspersky Lab that uncovered the virus 'Flame' said it is designed to collect and delete sensitive information.
Kaspersky, one of the world's biggest producers of anti- virus softwares, said the bug had infected computers in Iran, the West Bank, Sudan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
Flame is "actively being used as a cyber weapon attacking entities in several countries," Kaspersky said in a statement, describing its purpose as "cyber espionage".
"The complexity and functionality of the newly discovered malicious programme exceed those of all other cyber menaces known to date," the statement said.
The Internet security company also said that Flame contained a specific element that was used in the Stuxnet worm and which had not been seen in any other malware since.
On its blog, Kaspersky called Flame a "sophisticated attack toolkit," adding that it was much more complex than Duqu, the vehicle used to deliver Stuxnet.
The Stuxnet bug, discovered in June 2010, targeted primarily Iranian computers.
Iran admitted that the worm had damaged centrifuges operating at an uranium enrichment facility at Nantaz.
Kaspersky's chief malware expert Vitaly Kamluk told the BBC that more than 600 specific targets had been hit by Flame, including computers owned by individuals, businesses, academic institutions and government systems.
Kamluk said he believed the malware had been operating at least since August 2010, and probably earlier, adding that there was "no doubt" that it was developed by a "state actor".
Israel has described Iran's nuclear programme an "existential threat", vowing to use all "options on the table" to foil it.
Symantec, another Internet security firm, was quoted by daily Ha'aretz as saying on its blog that the bug's code was on par with that of Stuxnet and Duqu, which it described as "arguably the two most complex pieces of malware we have analysed to date."
It also said that certain file names in Flame were identical to those described in a hacking incident in April involving the Iranian oil ministry.
The worm had been operating discreetly for at least two years and was likely written by "an organized, well-funded group of people working to a clear set of directives," the firm stressed.
Symantec said the virus had also been found in computers in Hungary, Austria, Russia, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates.
The Forum held that the MSEDCL had provided deficient services to the consumer and not bothered to replace the faulty meter and hence was liable to compensate
Thane: The Thane District Consumers Grievances Redressal Forum has held that the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Co Ltd (MSEDCL) has provided deficient services to a domestic consumer and ordered the public entiry to pay Rs10,000 as compensation to him, reports PTI.
The forum headed by RB Somani along with member Jyoti Iyer ruled that the MSEDCL had billed exhorbitantly the complainant and also demanded interest on the outstanding from the complainant.
The forum gave the ruling recently after MSEDCL provided a faulty meter to the consumer from Thane who challenged the bill itself.
"It was the primary responsibility of MSEDCL to replace the faulty meter and give proper services to the consumer," it said.
Issuing exhorbitant bills and demanding interest in itself is a harassment, the forum ruled.
The Forum ordered a compensation payment of Rs8000 towards mental torture ofo the complainant and Rs2000 towards legal expenses.
The complainant Anand G Rao from Kalwa, had claimed a sum of Rs1 lakh towards damages and torture, while demanding Rs15,000 towards legal expenses.
Rao in his complaint told the forum that he was a consumer of MSEDCL from 1997 and till May 2001 he received a bill of Rs310 per month, which he paid.
However, in June 2001 the MSEDCL claimed that the meter was faulty and changed the same and started issuing an average bill.
He said payments wer made as per the bills issued by the MSEDCL. On several occasions the MSEDCL issued exhorbitant bills which were got corrected by the complainant but it never bothered to replace the faulty meter even till 2005, it was pointed out.
The meter was replaced in August 2005. The Corporation calculated the power bill on average and issued a bill for Rs76,990 in January 2007, which according to MSEDCL included an outstanding amount of Rs75,751.
The complainant challenged the very basis of demand from the MSEDCL which stated that he had consumed a total of 10753 units between March 2002 and May 2005 and the average for the 40 months came to 268 units and the value of the consumption was Rs33,303. With the interest, the total sum came to Rs49,417.
The Forum held that the MSEDCL had provided deficient services to the consumer and not bothered to replace the faulty meter and hence was liable to compensate for its follies.
The Forum also directed the Corporation to work out the actual bill due and take action accordingly and if need be adjust the excess payment in the future bills.
Can such tragedies be averted? Largely, the answer is yes
As the news of the tragedy that occurred on the Mumbai Pune Expressway sinks in, thoughts that come to mind is what one could do to avert such tragedies. It takes me back to the days when the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Highway was a four-lane one of substandard width and a substandard shoulder on either sides as well as trees lined along both sides. Travel at night would be fraught with dangers. The edge and median road markings were not of importance then. Practically no extra space was provided on the shoulder to stop a bus or truck near a village. A puncture had to be attended to on the hard, clear road surface. Motor Vehicle Rules, 1939, was still in vogue; the 1989 version was perhaps under discussion.
The only vehicles displaying the “Caution Triangle” sign were driven by people who had lived abroad and felt responsible and followed safe practices in their driving. Trucks carrying long protruding reinforcement bars had only a red cloth to warn vehicles in the rear to keep good distance. At night time, only the silhouettes would appear duly hidden in the foreground of the trees and many a time an accident was averted at the last moment due to the alertness of the driver.
Things are different now, with Golden Quadrilateral of the National Highways and other expressways constructed to international standards and practices. And yet increasing number of accidents take place with national annual fatalities touching unenviable 1,25,000. 80% of these occur in non-urban settings. There are technical driving related issues that need to be looked into, but for now, let us look at some pointers that can avert tragedies of the kind that occurred on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway with the marriage party returning home.
1. People who book transport should insist on buses to have retro-reflector strips stuck on the buses on all sides—white on the front, yellow on sides and red on the rear. If these vehicles do not have these strips fixed, they should not only reject hiring such buses but also be firm and complain to authorities even if the buses are not being hired by the party.
2. Totally avoid leaving a marriage function after dinner event, late at night, simply because even the drivers eat marriage food and it works on their system and are not up to the alertness levels that is required while driving.
3. Tragedies with such large fatality figures do not occur often but they do, especially related to marriage parties. Usually the people travelling together in these buses are kith and kin of the bride and groom. When an accident takes place, the tragedy is that it affects the close family members. The otherwise ever available family and friends support system is all altogether unavailable at the critical time, in addition to the deaths that have struck. Therefore it is best to avoid all family members travelling in the same vehicle. This is a practice followed by government functionaries where senior functionaries avoid travelling together so as to enable administration not to get disrupted when important functionary meets with a tragedy while travelling.
4. Placing a caution sign with reflector strip about 50 metres prior to where a vehicle has halted alerts the oncoming driver to become cautious in advance. People hiring a bus must insist upon such signboard being available on the bus. As in the case of retro-reflector strips, threat of reporting and actually reporting should be adequate for compliance.
5. Toll plazas should be fully automated so that a random check at toll plazas for (i) retro-reflector stripes (ii) caution sign board (iii) vehicle permits (iv) driving license, (v) functioning of lights and signals and (v) road worthiness of tyres must be done and those not complying should not only be penalized but fixed and charged for it. Even a breath analyser test should be carried out. The randomness will ensure compliance.
6. People should never wait at dangerous locations such as on the carriageways even at berms and should always be alert to vehicles moving on the highways. This includes sitting between vehicles.
7. People must insist on the bus driver keeping within the speed limits stipulated for respective stretches of roads. Based on that, the journey time must be arrived at. People shall not demand the driver to make good time delays that might have taken place for whatever reasons.
8. Since driving on highways differs from that on urban surroundings, every entry point of highways into the city must have a compulsory five-minute halt time from where the driver is able to respond to urban driving requirements.
There could be many other points that could help in averting tragedies of the kinds, but these eight should suffice to begin with.
(Sudhir Badami is a civil engineer and transportation analyst. He is on Government of Maharashtra’s Steering Committee on BRTS for Mumbai and Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority’s Technical Advisory Committee on BRTS for Mumbai. He is also member of Research & MIS Committee of Unified Mumbai Metropolitan Transport Authority. He was member of Bombay High Court appointed erstwhile Road Monitoring Committee [2006-07]. While he has been an active campaigner against Noise for more than a decade, he is a strong believer in functioning democracy. He can be contacted on email at [email protected])