Nuclear Negotiators Aware of Possible Spying Activities

Nuclear Negotiators Aware  of Possible Spying ActivitiesNuclear Negotiators Aware  of Possible Spying Activities

An unnamed official involved in the nuclear talks between Iran and the major powers said on Thursday the nuclear negotiators are aware of possible efforts to spy on the negotiations.

“Regardless of reports about the recent case of a computer virus, Iranian negotiators have always taken account of and been cautious about the high risk of eavesdropping and espionage,” the official told Fars news agency in reference to the report that Israel has launched a cyberattack on the hotels where the nuclear talks have been held.  

Meanwhile, Reuters quoted Switzerland’s attorney-general as saying on Thursday that Swiss authorities have searched a house in Geneva and seized computer material in connection with a possible cyberattack on nuclear negotiations in the city.

Austria is also investigating the case, which came to light when Russian computer security company Kaspersky Lab said on Wednesday a computer virus was used to hack into locations including three luxury hotels that had hosted negotiations between Iran and the six major powers (the US, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia).

“On 12 May, 2015, a house search took place in Geneva and IT hardware as well as software was seized. The aim of the aforementioned house search was to seize respective information as well as the malware,” the Swiss attorney-general’s office in Berne said. “It was of particular interest to investigate whether the malware infected the respective IT systems.”

Criminal proceedings have been opened against unknown persons “on suspicion of political espionage,” it added in a statement, without elaborating. A spokesman declined to give any further information on the investigation.

In Vienna, an interior ministry spokesman said the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Counterterrorism was aware of the information about the suspected cyberattack and was reviewing it. He declined to give more details about which locations were being scrutinized by the agency. The talks have been held in Vienna, Geneva, Lausanne, Montreux and Munich.

  No Surprise

“You know that there are enemies of these talks and they will do whatever they can, so it’s not a surprise to us,” Reza Najafi, ambassador to the UN nuclear agency, told reporters in Vienna.

“We continue to take precautionary measures not to let any details of the discussion go to the public,” he added on the sidelines of an International Atomic Energy Agency board meeting.

“I should say we have been successful in that regard ... Of course there are some cases, which are just incidents.”  Israel, a strong critic of the nuclear talks, on Thursday denied reports that it has had a connection to the computer virus.

Both Kaspersky and US security company Symantec said the virus shared some programming with previously discovered espionage software called Duqu, which security experts believe to have been developed by Israelis.