Risk
1/16/2011
07:48 PM
George V. Hulme
George V. Hulme
Commentary
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Report: Stuxnet Joint Israeli-U.S. Operation

A story published this weekend adds evidence to what many have suspected all along: that the Stuxnet worm was nation-state designed and developed to set-back Iran's nuclear ambitions.

A story published this weekend adds evidence to what many have suspected all along: that the Stuxnet worm was nation-state designed and developed to set-back Iran's nuclear ambitions.According to unnamed sources in a story published in the New York Times Saturday, the Stuxnet worm was a two year long operation coordinated among the United States and Israel.

The Stuxnet worm was discovered this summer, and is the first publicly known worm that can snoop and re-program industrial control systems. And is widely believed to target Iranian nuclear centrifuges thought by many countries to be part of a weapons program.

According to the story, Stuxnet was thoroughly tested at the guarded Dimona complex in the Negev desert. It was at that site where Israel tested Stuxnet against equipment built to closely match what Iran was running at its controversial Natanz installation.

The paper also said that the U.S. Idaho National Laboratory identified vulnerabilities in the Seimens systems in use by Iran.

The worm, also in the report, is credited with not only with the ability to disrupt Iran's nuclear centrifuges but to only (incredibly) feed fake data back to technicians that made it appear all was well with the equipment:

The worm itself now appears to have included two major components. One was designed to send Iran's nuclear centrifuges spinning wildly out of control. Another seems right out of the movies: The computer program also secretly recorded what normal operations at the nuclear plant looked like, then played those readings back to plant operators, like a pre-recorded security tape in a bank heist, so that it would appear that everything was operating normally while the centrifuges were actually tearing themselves apart.

The worm is credited with sending back the alleged Iranian nuclear weapons program by several years.

It's impossible to tell if these reports are accurate. But I do believe we'll soon know who the creators of the Stuxnet worm are exactly.

No matter who created this worm, it's certainly changed the way we have to think about defending industrial control systems and our own critical infrastructure. That's because if Iranian systems are vulnerable to such attacks – so are ours.

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The cybersecurity profession struggles to retain women (figures range from 10 to 20 percent). It's particularly worrisome for an industry with a rapidly growing number of vacant positions.

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