A virus that might save us all 2

Why has Israel not bombed Iranian nuclear facilities? Perhaps because it doesn’t need to. Perhaps it has found another way to destroy Iran’s nuclear capability.

Instead of risking lives and aircraft and weaponry, it seems that Israelis may be crippling Iran’s nuclear industry by using their best and most reliable resource – their brains.

One thing is certain: cyber war is being waged on Iran. Whether or not it was the Israelis who devised it, an extremely destructive computer virus called STUXNET has incapacitated some 30,000 Iranian industrial computers including at least 3,000 centrifuges.

The rumor is that Israel is hitting Iran with it, in partnership with the US.

Neither Israeli nor US confirmation has been forthcoming. But neither has Israeli or US denial.

Peripheral information helps to make the rumor plausible. Israel has been able to acquire up-to-date knowledge of Iran’s nuclear secrets for some time now. Human spies were suspected. But it seems that no one had to penetrate the secret facilities. Israel, the story goes, has Iran’s most vital computers in its hands.

Here’s part of the latest report on this interesting and heartening development:

[Mahmoud] Alyaee, secretary-general of Iran’s industrial computer servers, including its nuclear facilities control systems, confirmed Saturday, Sept. 25, that 30,000 computers belonging to classified industrial units had been infected and disabled by the malicious Stuxnet virus.

[According to] Washington and defense sources … a clandestine cyber war is being fought against Iran by the United States with elite cyber war units established by Israel. Stuxnet is believed to be the most destructive virus ever devised for attacking major industrial complexes, reactors and infrastructure. The experts say it is beyond the capabilities of private or individual hackers and could have been produced by a high-tech state like America or Israel, or its military cyber specialists.

The Iranian official said Stuxnet had been designed to strike the industrial control systems in Iran manufactured by the German Siemens and transfer classified data abroad.

The head of the Pentagon’s cyber war department, Vice Adm. Bernard McCullough said Thursday, Sept. 22, that Stuxnet had capabilities never seen before. In a briefing to the Armed Forces Committee of US Congress, he testified that it was regarded as the most advanced and sophisticated piece of Malware to date.

According to Alyaee, the virus began attacking Iranian industrial systems two months ago. He had no doubt that Iran was the victim of a cyber attack which its anti-terror computer experts had so far failed to fight. Stuxnet is powerful enough to change an entire environment, he said without elaborating. Not only has it taken control of automatic industrial systems, but has raided them for classified information and transferred the data abroad.

This admission by an Iranian official explains “how the United States and Israel intelligence agencies have been able to keep pace step by step [with] progress made in Iran’s nuclear program. Until now, Tehran attributed the leaks to Western spies using Iranian double agents.”

But if  it is true that the US is waging the cyber war, and what is more waging it in alliance with Israel, it can only be with the approval and permission of Obama – right?

Obama supporting Israel in a war against Iran? Admittedly a war without bloodshed, but still a war. This would be so plainly counter to Obama’s open-hand policy towards Iran that we remain skeptical – not of the fact that Iran is being severely hampered on its road to becoming a nuclear-armed power, nor that Israel is attacking Iran with a new kind of weapon, but that Obama wants it to happen. Sooner or later we’ll know more.

Meanwhile, all-hail great Stuxnet! – as long as the toxic terror remains in friendly hands.

  • philabor

    While anything pro-Israel or anti Iran would be surprising from the President, immobilizing Iran's nuclear capability wouldn't be inconsistent with his stated desire for nuclear non-proliferation.

  • I've known for a long time that the Chinese have periodically “tested” American cyber defenses. We usually seem to be in reaction mode. This is the first time I've heard of the U.S. taking the offensive. If we really are the ones who deployed STUXNET, then it would appear we've continued to follow the doctrine of anticipatory self-defense. It was (in)famous during the Bush years. Perhaps some government lawyer has distinguished using software as opposed to bombs because software doesn't kill people. Useful distinction, at least as long as it remains true.