Attacks/Breaches
2/14/2011
01:23 PM
Connect Directly
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Stuxnet Iran Attack Launched From 10 Machines

Symantec researchers analyzed the worm's timestamps and found that the 12,000 infections they studied originated from a handful of machines.

Top 10 Security Stories Of 2010
(click image for larger view)
Slideshow: Top 10 Security Stories Of 2010

All Stuxnet worm attacks -- which targeted a nuclear facility in Iran -- were launched by infecting a total of just 10 machines. In other words, the more than 100,000 Stuxnet infections spotted by September 2010 can be traced back to a handful of infections, which likely targeted peripheral facilities to ultimately infect the true target.

That's the surprise finding from a new Symantec report on Stuxnet, released Friday.

Stuxnet was designed to sabotage the high-frequency convertor drives used in a uranium enrichment facility in Iran. The malware adjusts the automated control system's user interface to make it appear that the drives are running normally. But in reality, the malware is quickly adjusting the speed of the drives to very high and low frequencies. As a result, not only does the uranium not get enriched, but the drive motors are permanently damaged.

In November, Symantec's researchers discovered that Stuxnet records a timestamp every time it infects a new machine. "However, at the time, this information was largely useless as we did not have enough samples to draw any meaningful conclusions," they said in a blog post.

Since then, however, numerous antivirus firms have been feeding the researchers every Stuxnet variant they capture, enabling them to amass a collection of 3,280 unique samples, which would have generated about 12,000 infections. Studying this subset, they found that every infection could be traced back to just one of 10 machines.

Since attackers may not have had direct access to the enrichment facility, it’s possible they targeted machines in five related facilities, in an attempt to spread the malware to the enrichment facility. Interestingly, in June 2009, and again in April 2010, the same PC appears to have been infected with different versions of Stuxnet. Meanwhile, another facility was targeted once, but had an initial three infections, which Symantec said suggests that a USB key carrying Stuxnet was inserted into three different PCs.

Symantec said the last Stuxnet attack appeared to have been launched in May 2010, while the earliest known attack dates from June 2009.

Iran began containing Stuxnet in August 2010. "Looking at newly infected IP addresses per day, on August 22 we observed that Iran was no longer reporting new infections," said Symantec's researchers. "This was most likely due to Iran blocking outward connections to the command and control servers, rather than a drop-off in infections."

But Iran's response came too late. According to news reports, the Stuxnet attacks appear to have been successful.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading, September 16, 2014
Malicious software is morphing to be more targeted, stealthy, and destructive. Are you prepared to stop it?
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2012-5700
Published: 2014-09-22
Multiple cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities in Baby Gekko before 1.2.2f allow remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via the (1) id parameter to admin/index.php or the (2) username or (3) password parameter in blocks/loginbox/loginbox.template.php to index.php. NOTE: some o...

CVE-2014-0484
Published: 2014-09-22
The Debian acpi-support package before 0.140-5+deb7u3 allows local users to gain privileges via vectors related to the "user's environment."

CVE-2014-2942
Published: 2014-09-22
Cobham Aviator 700D and 700E satellite terminals use an improper algorithm for PIN codes, which makes it easier for attackers to obtain a privileged terminal session by calculating the superuser code, and then leveraging physical access or terminal access to enter this code.

CVE-2014-3595
Published: 2014-09-22
Cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in spacewalk-java 1.2.39, 1.7.54, and 2.0.2 in Spacewalk and Red Hat Network (RHN) Satellite 5.4 through 5.6 allows remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via a crafted request that is not properly handled when logging.

CVE-2014-3635
Published: 2014-09-22
Off-by-one error in D-Bus 1.3.0 through 1.6.x before 1.6.24 and 1.8.x before 1.8.8, when running on a 64-bit system and the max_message_unix_fds limit is set to an odd number, allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (dbus-daemon crash) or possibly execute arbitrary code by sending one m...

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio