Meet Stuxnet

September 30, 2010 by  


By Sumayyah Meehan, MMNS Middle East Correspondent

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No, it’s not a new form of never-before-seen bacteria or even the next pandemic threat. However, Stuxnet is being touted as the world’s first “cyber missile.” It was aimed directly at Iran this past week and heralded in a new age of cyber bullying. With its origins unknown, but undoubtedly hailing from the West, Stuxnet has thrown one big giant wrench in Iran’s nuclear proliferation dreams seemingly at the drop of a hat.

On the surface, Stuxnet appears to be nothing more than a malicious computer worm. But a look at what lies beneath reveals something a whole lot more sinister. Stuxnet reared its ugly head on the staff computers at Iran’s first nuclear power plant, Bushehr. The effect the worm had on the computers is being downplayed by Iranian authorities who have already stated that the computer systems were unaffected. However, according to Iranian ministry official Mahmud Lia’i, “An electronic war has been launched against Iran.”

In a recent interview aired on the BBC, Lia’I revealed that the purpose of the worm is to extract information regarding Iran’s nuclear program and send the data to an unknown third party outside of the country. It also has the potential to take over the controls for industrial facilities and render them useless for operators. However, what is exponentially more disturbing, is the way in which the worm is presented to the computer system prior to infection. The Internet has nothing to do with it as most computers used for industrial purposes are not connected online. Instead the worm is administered via USB memory sticks, which in all probability were used by staff members both personally and professionally, online or offline. Teams of Iranian tech experts have been dispatched to the Bushehr facility and are currently attempting to remove all traces of the worm.

This is not the first time that Iran has been attacked by a foreign malicious computer program. According to Internet watchdog Symantec, an astounding 58.9% of the digital daggers thrown Iran’s way come from sources located outside of its borders.

As of late, Iranian President Ahmadinejad has not pointed a single finger. He really has no need to, since speculation regarding the West’s involvement in the Stuxnet worm is rife in media reports from the greater global community. Since Iran has continued to staunchly defy the demands of several powerful nations, like the United States and England, to cease and desist from procuring a nuclear toolbox there is little doubt that the bullying will continue.

The bigger picture that the success of the Stuxnet worm paints is horrifying.

This new chink in Iran’s perceived armor has just challenged every hacker in the entire world to try to go where Stuxnet has already been.

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