Iran and the Stuxnet worm
Back in October, I was interviewed on PJTV about the Stuxnet “worm,” which had reportedly sabotaged two of Iran’s (sinister) nuclear facilities. At the time, it seemed that worm — a self-replicating computer malware program — had been crafted specifically to cripple the computer systems at the Iranian facilities. Now, more signs have emerged that the “worm” is continuing to subvert Iran’s facilities.
Though Stuxnet remains enigmatic, this article caught my eye because it sketches in a few more facts about Stuxnet. In particular, the article lays out what investigators have learned so far about the worm’s sophisticated self-concealment and pinpoint targeting. For instance:
Masking itself from the [nuclear] plant’s security and other systems, the worm then ordered the centrifuges to rotate extremely fast, and then to slow down precipitously. This damaged the converter, the centrifuges and the bearings, and it corrupted the uranium in the tubes. It also left Iranian nuclear engineers wondering what was wrong, as computer checks showed no malfunctions in the operating system.
Estimates are that this went on for more than a year, leaving the Iranian program in chaos. And as it did, the worm grew and adapted throughout the system. As new worms entered the system, they would meet and adapt and become increasingly sophisticated.
… the worm was designed to allow the Iranian program to continue but never succeed, and never to know why. [The whole thing is worth reading.]
Two quick comments: 1. There are some scarily brilliant minds behind the design and implementation of the Stuxnet worm. If indeed it is a U.S.-backed, calculated cyber attack on Iran’s facilities, I would applaud the folks who created it. 2. Is sabotaging Iran’s nuclear program enough to safeguard us? It buys us time — and that’s a good thing — but we must remember that the threat from Iran is broader than just its nuclear ambitions.