Flame is a modular form of computer malware that was recently discovered in 2012.  This malware is also called Flamer, sKyWIper, or Skywiper and is able to collect very large volumes of private information from infected computers and networks. Flame was originally created as a program to target cyber espionage — or other harmful transfers of information between groups or networks — in the Middle East. According the the Budapest University of Technology and Economics, “Flame [sKyWIper] is certainly the most sophisticated malware we encountered during our practice; arguably, it is the most complex malware ever found.”

After it was discovered, software engineers determined that Flame has the very real potential of having wide-ranging and lasting negative consequences for many users. This malware can infect a network via LAN, USB stick or through email transmission.  Once inside an individual’s network, Flame begins to record audio, screenshots, keyboard activity and even network traffic and transmits this back to the malware’s owner. This allows the owners access to private information that can be used in a number of harmful ways.

Flame is also able to read emails and provide screenshots of instant messages (IMs), email and other communications.  The program is sophisticated enough to turn on wireless Bluetooth and scan nearby mobile devices’ address books.  During this process, the malware collects names and phone numbers.  Flame also scans local networks for user names and passwords for any available accounts. To make the situation more grave, the malware is also able to delete any files that may record its existence, effectively wiping any trace of the virus from a network.

Because Flame can be spread through email messages, email marketers should take note and strengthen their security systems and beef up firewalls. Though it is not known to spread to every computer in a network, Flame’s innocuous appearance makes it simple for the malware to spread through to vital public systems like banks, business and city networks.

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