Shortly after taking office in 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama secretly ordered sophisticated attacks on the computer systems that control Iran's nuclear enrichment facilities, the New York Times reported.

According to the report, Obama decided to expand attacks that had begun during the George W. Bush administration.

The report said that the Stuxnet worm, the existence of which became public in 2010, was developed by the United States and Israel as part of a joint effort to sabotage the Iranian nuclear program.

Obama reportedly decided that cyber attacks should continue, even after Stuxnet was publicized.

According to the report, internal Obama administration estimates show that the sabotage effort set the Iranian nuclear program back 18 months to two years, but many experts, both in and out of government, are skeptical of this assessment.

The report comes almost a week after the internet security company Kaspersky Lab announced that it had uncovered a 'cyber-espionage worm' designed to collect and delete sensitive information, primarily in Middle Eastern countries.

Kaspersky called the malware, named "Flame," the "most sophisticated cyber-weapon yet unleashed." It said the bug had infected computers in Iran, the West Bank, Sudan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

The company also said that Flame contained a specific element that was used in the Stuxnet worm and which had not been seen in any other malware since.

On its blog, Kaspersky called Flame a "sophisticated attack toolkit," adding that it was much more complex than Duqu, the vehicle used to deliver Stuxnet.

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