Its name is Regin.
For six years, the bug has been infecting computers while flying under the radar of security systems. Once it installs itself on a computer, Regin is able to do things like take screenshots, steal passwords and recover deleted files.
Symantec says the bug has been used primarily to spy on government organizations, businesses and private individuals.
“We don’t believe it is being used… for mass surveillance,”
said Vikram Thakur, Senior Development Manager at Symantec.
More than half of Regin’s targets were located in the countries of Russia and Saudi Arabia, though it also infected networks in Mexico, Ireland and a number of other countries in Europe and Asia.
The bug’s extreme complexity suggests that it was likely created by a nation state for use as a cyber-espionage tool.
“It looks like it comes from a Western organisation. It’s the level of skill and expertise, the length of time over which it was developed,”
said Sian John, who works as a security strategist at Symantec.
Researchers familiar with Regin said it probably took months or even years to fully develop the highly-intricate piece of malicious software.
The bug has drawn parallels to the Stuxnet virus, which infiltrated Iranian nuclear facilities in 2010, reportedly shutting down up to 1,000 centrifuges. Evidence indicates that Suxnet was most likely developed by the U.S. and Israel.
But while Stuxnet was specifically designed to damage actual equipment, it seems that Regin’s purpose was simply to steal information.