By Daniel Hunter

Computer security firm Symantec says it has discovered what it described as one of the most sophisticated pieces of malicious software ever seen.

Symantec said Regin was probably created by a government and has been used for six years. It said that the sophistication indicated government work, adding that it would've taken years to develop.

Regin allows hackers to capture screenshots, recover deleted files and steal passwords.

Symantec said computers in Russia, Saudi Arabia and Ireland had been targeted most by Regin.

Sian John, a security strategist at Symantec, said: "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."

Symantec likened it to Stuxnet, a virus designed by the US and Israel to damage equipment in Iran's nuclear programme.

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