Stuxnet Speculation Grows: Is Worm a Cyber-war Weapon?

On January 15, the New York Times ran a story headlined, “Israeli Test on Worm Called Crucial in Iran Nuclear Delay.”

The story said: “Though American and Israeli officials refuse to talk publicly about what goes on at Dimona, the operations there, as well as related efforts in the United States, are among the newest and strongest clues suggesting that the virus was designed as an American-Israeli project to sabotage the Iranian program.”

(Dimona is the ultra-secret site where the Israelis develop nuclear weapons they never quite admit they have.)

Bruce Schneier wrote this about the Stuxnet back in October: “As the story goes, the Stuxnet worm was designed and released by a government — the U.S. and Israel are the most common suspects — specifically to attack the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran. How could anyone not report that? It combines computer attacks, nuclear power, spy agencies and a country that’s a pariah to much of the world. The only problem with the story is that it’s almost entirely speculation.”

And here on DevX, we had a bit to say about Stuxnet back in October,
too: “Who Wrote the Nefarious Stuxnet Worm? And Why?”

What started as speculation is now close enough to being confirmed that not only the New York Times, but an increasing number of media and even governments are now treating the idea that Stuxnet is an Israeli-developer Cyberwar weapon as fact, not fiction.

Possibly the most interesting take on Stuxnet may have come from ABC in a January 28 article titled, “Beware the Cyber War Boomerang?” that says:

“The leak prone governments of the United States and Israel seem to be competing to claim credit for a cyber war attack on Iran’s nuclear weapons program, while officially refusing to confirm or deny their role in the ‘Stuxnet’ computer worm.”

ABC’s Richard Clarke went on to warn, “The problem lies in the fact that the worm ran freely through cyberspace and lots of people caught a copy. One can be sure that highly skilled hackers in several countries are even now taking it apart, modifying it, and getting it ready to destroy some other target. They are benefiting from free access to the most sophisticated computer attack weapon ever created. That would not be such a problem except for the fact that the thousands of computer networks that run our economy are essentially defenseless against sophisticated computer attacks.”

In other words, a software weapon we — the U.S. — may have helped develop what can now be used against us, so we’d better get on the stick and start protecting our many computer-based industrial control networks against Stuxnet-type attacks.

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