US Gov Responsible for Stuxnet

The New York Times believes it has the full story on Stuxnet – the malware that targeted Iranian nuclear reactors last year. In a recent series of articles based on 18 months of investigative journalism, the Times reports that as suspected, Stuxnet is the product of U.S. and Israeli security agencies who developed it as a cyberweapon to sabotage Iran’s uranium-enrichment facilities. The Times reported that Stuxnet was part of a larger effort code-named Olympic Games that began under the Bush administration and was sustained and accelerated under President Obama. Anonymous sources who participated in Olympic Games say that they developed several sophisticated cyberweapons intended to gather intelligence and infiltrate Iranian nuclear facilities. One of these malware weapons accidentally leaked out of an Iranian nuclear facility network and was discovered by the public, and dubbed Stuxnet by computer security experts.

It is believed that at least three extremely sophisticated cyberweapon worms have been developed as part of Olympic Games. They include Stuxnet, Duqu, and perhaps a newly discovered worm dubbed Flame, which has been described as super-cyber spying malware recently found infecting PCs in Iran and other Middle Eastern countries. The US government has so far not responded to the New York Times story. Analysts predict an escalation in cyber attacks against U.S. firms in retaliation for the actions reported by the New York Times. Read the articles yourself using the links in the show notes.

Cybersecurity researchers have found common code between the Stuxnet Virus and the new Flame Virus indicating that the two probably share a common author. According to a recent NYTimes article that author or development team is on the payroll of the US government.
Cybersleuths Find Link Between Flame, Stuxnet Virus [NewsFactor]

Stuxnet Attacks Industrial Controllers

Viruses, worms, and other forms of malware have traditionally attacked software, inflicting damage only in the digital world. Stuxnet is the first major worm to cross from the digital world into the physical world to destroy physical objects and endanger lives. Stuxnet infects systems over the Internet or by inserting an infected flash drive. Once launched, the worm takes advantage of security holes in Microsoft Windows to scour all the computers on the network, searching for computers that control industrial processes. The worm can then manipulate the software, changing sensor controls, shutting down manufacturing, and issuing false instructions. In worst cases the worm could destroy gas pipelines, cause nuclear power plants to malfunction, cause industrial boilers to blow up, and even shut down a country’s power grid.

It is believed that Stuxnet has infected over 45,000 industrial control systems around the world. It is likely that many other systems are infected but the owners are unaware. There is some speculation that the worm may have been developed by a government agency as part of a cyber warfare initiative. One report suggests that the work may have been developed by the US or Israel to target Iranian nuclear plants.

The US’s new commander of the military’s cyberwarfare operations, Gen. Keith B. Alexander, is concerned about such attacks on systems in the US. In a recent report he advocates the creation of a “separate, secure computer network to protect civilian government agencies and critical industries like the nation’s power grid against attacks mounted over the Internet.”