The Stuxnet worm: A cyber-missile aimed at Iran? | The Economist

The Stuxnet worm: A cyber-missile aimed at Iran? | The Economist, Sep 24th 2010, THE internet is abuzz this week with speculation about Stuxnet, a “groundbreaking” computer worm that attacks industrial-control systems. Put that way, it doesn’t sound very exciting. But the possibility that it might have been aimed at one set of industrial-control systems in particular—those inside Iranian nuclear facilities—has prompted one security expert to describe Stuxnet as a “cyber-missile”, designed to seek out and destroy a particular target. Its unusual sophistication, meanwhile, has prompted speculation that it is the work of a well-financed team working for a nation state, rather than a group of rogue hackers trying to steal industrial secrets or cause trouble. This, in turn, has led to suggestions that Israel, known for its high-tech prowess and (ahem) deep suspicion of Iran’s nuclear programme, might be behind it. But it is difficult to say how much truth there is in this juicy theory……..
according to Ralph Langner, a German security expert who published his own analysis last week, Stuxnet examines the system it is running on and, only if certain very specific characteristics are found, shuts down specific processes. All this suggests that a particular system was being targeted. ……
Microsoft said in August that more than 45,000 computers around the world had been infected by Stuxnet. An analysis by Symantec, a computer-security firm, found that 60% of infected machines were in Iran, 18% in Indonesia and 8% in India. It could be just a coincidence that Iran has been hardest hit. But if Stuxnet has been deliberately aimed at Iran, one possible target is its Bushehr nuclear reactor, though there is no specific evidence for this……..
A rival theory is that the target was Iran’s uranium-enrichment plant at Natanz, and that Stuxnet successfully shut down some of its centrifuges in early 2009………
Two further reports on the worm are due be released at a computer-security conference in Vancouver on September 29th. They may clear up some of the mysteries surrounding Stuxnet—but they may simply prompt further speculation.

The Stuxnet worm: A cyber-missile aimed at Iran? | The Economist

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