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If you can’t kill Iran’s nuclear weapons program with bombs, try a worm

I don’t know if you’ve been keeping up with the story about the cyber attack on the Iranian nuclear facilities, but it is both interesting and important.

"Stuxnet" is the name of a worm that has apparently been introduced somehow into the system that controls the Iranian nuclear processes – specifically at those facilities thought to be focused on producing nuclear weapons. This is no ordinary malware worm, but an extremely sophisticated and targeted one which is apparently causing some real havoc in Iran.

Iran admitted Monday, Sept. 27 it was under full-scale cyber terror attack. The official IRNA news agency quoted Hamid Alipour, deputy head of Iran’s government Information Technology Company, as saying that the Stuxnet computer worm “is mutating and wreaking further havoc on computerized industrial equipment.”

Stuxnet was no normal worm, he said: “The attack is still ongoing and new versions of this virus are spreading.”

The mutation continues to infect and infest the Iranian systems causing all sorts of problems.  Experts say that such sophistication would require “the backing of a nation-state” to put it together.  I have a sneaking suspicion I know who it is, and this is their answer to whether or not bombing the facility is feasible.  Uh, no – but when you can do this, why do that?

Here are a couple of backgrounders on the story – here and here.  This is going to be an interesting one to watch.



19 Responses to If you can’t kill Iran’s nuclear weapons program with bombs, try a worm

  • Oh no!  it’s Skynet!   The terminators are close behind!
    Sorry, some idiot had to volunteer to go there, and…well…..need I say more…..It’s in keeping with the Democratic mid-term campaign plan “vote Scared, vote Democrat”.

  • Wouldn’t ya love to know what it’s doing?
    Infecting Mullah Mail 3.0 by sending funny cartoons of Muhammed from machine to machine with Onmydinnerjacket’s signature on them?
    Causing mouse over’s to divert them to sites showing pictures of fried pork chops,glasses of beer and women in short sleeve shirts and short dresses?
    Pasting random excerpts of Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses into emails from the Ayatollah’s council?

    • LOL  Looker, I imagine it more like what Neuman did when he hacked the computers in Jurassic Park

      • Heh – I love the image – thanks man –  Neuman, in a yarmulka and a prayer shawl, waving a finger at them saying “uh uh uh!”.
        “Dammit Majid!  I can’t get this thing to make plutonium!!!!!  All I get is this…this….face, it keeps appearing!!!!”  It’s making me crazy enough to drive a bomb laden truck into an “Elastic Loaves” Palace!”
        “did you run try running McAllah to clean the virus?”
        “Yes!  Koshkol! it’s not working!

  • The 21st Century battleground?  This could create an interesting dilemma for countries like Iran, that wish they could seal off the information super-highway.  In order to better deal with the growing threat of cyber-warfare, they’ll need a more computer-savvy populace.  But a more computer-savvy populace will have an easier time getting around web-based roadblocks and connecting directly with the rest of the world.

  • As long as it’s their ox getting gored it is funny. But if it can be done to them, it can be done to anybody. This cyber technology can be scary stuff.

  • I do recall reading somewhere that Israel has more hackers per capita than any other country in the world.  (Though they’d get blamed for it regardless)

  • It’s Israel. No one else has the talent plus motivation. My only question is how much damage did they manage?

    Iran doesn’t seem to be saying. I hope it’s a lot.

  • Actually I am pretty sure that it could be destroyed with bombs.

  • Dumb to release this now.
    This could only be used as a compliment to a physical attack.  On its own, facilities may be deactivated but only temporarily.  The facilities, the uranium, even the computers, aren’t going anywhere.  They’re waiting for the computers to be purged and go back to work.
    And next time, when it could have been released this in conjunction with a military assault to save lives by throwing the enemy in chaos from within, they will be hardened against it.

    • The kicker is that someone is going to nab this code and release it on the general internet.

    • What makes you think this is the only one of its kind?

    • Iran has been making statements to the effect that not only is the virus disrupting/destroying operations, it’s also sending data out. Now, everything they say should be taken with a grain of salt and I haven’t seen anything like that included in what Stuxnet does. But I also recall reading there’s a whole chunk of the code that hasn’t been decrypted yet, so its function is a mystery. What if it’s target acquisition?

  • Now that the precedent has been set, how long will it be before someone else does it? If I were in charge of securing a network here in the US, the country everyone loves and respects, I would not be sleeping well. If nuclear ‘devices’ are marketable to terrorists, how much more marketable would a MB or two of code be?

    • There have already been other cyber attacks made and so far I don’t recall any retalliation happened.

      I am not sure terrorists really get off on screwing up a power plant – not enough dead people for them.

  • “There have already been other cyber attacks made .”

    More like probes rather than actual attacks.

    “and so far I don’t recall any retalliation happened”

    Exactly. How do you retaliate, and against whom? How can you prove who created, or even more difficult, who let loose a virus/worm/etc.?

    I imagine the Taliban, for one, would pay rather well for some malware that disabled UAVs.