Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg, Illustration by Tom Hall/Bloomberg Business

Swiss Prosecutor Probes Cyber-Spying on Iran Nuclear Talks

Switzerland opened an investigation into allegations of cyber espionage after a digital security company detected an attack on computers used at venues for international negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program.

Police seized computer equipment from an unidentified location in Geneva last month to determine whether it had been infected by malicious software, the Swiss Attorney General’s office said in a statement Thursday. It didn’t mention the nuclear talks or say what prompted its actions.

Kaspersky Lab, a maker of anti-virus software, said Wednesday that it had been the victim of a cyber attack by a highly sophisticated malware platform called Duqu that “included some unique and earlier unseen features and almost didn’t leave traces.” The attack was “very impressive” and must have involved high costs, Kaspersky said.

“Kaspersky Lab researchers discovered the company wasn’t the only target of this powerful threat,” it said. “Most notably, some of the new 2014-2015 infections are linked to the P5+1 events and venues related to the negotiations with Iran about a nuclear deal.”

Duqu was developed by Israel to spy on the talks, which it opposes, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing current and former U.S. officials.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said there was “no basis” to the report that Israel was involved, according to the Israeli Army Radio’s website.

Israeli Denial

Iran took precautions against spying at the talks because Israeli spying “wasn’t unexpected,” Reza Najafi, Iran’s envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, said at a briefing in Vienna Thursday.

Six nations known as the P5+1 -- the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany -- face a June 30 deadline to complete an agreement that would restrict Iran’s nuclear abilities in exchange for an end to international sanctions that have crippled the country’s economy. They reached a preliminary deal during talks in April in Lausanne.

“We have no indication at this time that we are affected” by the computer attack, said Alessandra de Raemy, a spokeswoman for the Beau-Rivage Palace hotel in Lausanne, where U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stayed. The U.S. always takes precautions before talks, according to a senior U.S. official who asked not to be identified.

Other talks have been held at hotels in Geneva and in the Swiss lakeside city of Montreux as well as in Munich and Vienna.

The InterContinental Geneva never comments on its security installations, said Jurgen Baumhoff, the hotel’s general director. He added that guest safety, “whether physical or in terms of data,” is the hotel’s biggest priority. No one was immediately available for comment at the Hotel President Wilson in Geneva and the Royal Plaza Montreux & Spa in Montreux.

In addition to the nuclear talk venues, other targets of the Duqu attack were identified in countries around the world, Kaspersky said. The attack also targeted an event commemorating the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp.

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