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In this picture taken on Feb 13, 2012, an Iranian woman uses a computer in an internet cafe in central Tehran. — Photo by AP

TEHRAN: Iran claimed on Tuesday to have come up with an anti-virus program against “Flame”, an extraordinarily sophisticated malware that hit its servers and deployed various spying procedures, apparently at the behest of a foreign power.

“Tools to recognise and clean this malware have been developed and, as of today, they will be available for those (Iranian) organisations and companies who want it,” Maher, a computer emergency response team coordination centre in Iran's telecommunications ministry, said on its website.

Flame, a crafty piece of code that can take steal files, take screenshots, activate computer microphones to record conversations, log keystrokes and carry out other activities controlled remotely, was identified this week by leading anti-virus firms around the world.

Iran appeared to be targeted by the worm-like malware, along with other regions including Israel/Palestinian Territories, Sudan and Syria.

The virus hit Iran's oil ministry servers in April, forcing authorities to shut them down.

“Experts from Maher...have said that the theft of large volumes of data in recent weeks was caused by Flame,” the Fars news agency reported.

Anti-virus experts said Flame was many times more sophisticated than Stuxnet, a virus that in 2010 hit computers running Iran's sensitive uranium enrichment centrifuges, or a cousin to Stuxnet, Duqu, which struck in 2011.

The complexity of all three of these viruses suggested a nation-state was responsible, with suspicion falling on the United States or Israel.

Flame is “actively being used as a cyber weapon attacking entities in several countries,” a top Russian anti-virus software firm, Kaspersky Lab, said in a statement late on Monday, describing its purpose as “cyberespionage”.

“The complexity and functionality of the newly discovered malicious program exceed those of all other cyber menaces known to date,” it added.

Maher said Flame was undetectable by 43 different anti-virus programs it tested, forcing it to come up with its own defence after “months of research”.

It did not give details of how its Flame-killer worked.