Russians blamed for Stuxnet, flee Iran 3

Which high-tech country might Iran turn to for help in ridding itself of the Stuxnet computer worm that is incapacitating its industrial-military complex? (See our posts A virus that might save us all, September 25, 2010, and Sound the trumpet, September 29, 2010.)

Germany? Siemens provided the systems that are under attack, but apparently will not or cannot come to the rescue.

Russia? Russians were employed to install the Siemens systems. But not only have they been unable to destroy the worm, they are now being accused of planting it, and are fleeing Iran as fast as they can.

Some of them say they hope to return when the trouble has blown over – which rather strongly indicates they were not responsible for causing it.

Here’s the latest Stuxnet-chaos news:

Dozens of Russian nuclear engineers, technicians and contractors are hurriedly departing Iran for home since local intelligence authorities began rounding up their compatriots as suspects of planting the Stuxnet malworm into their nuclear program.

Among them are the Russian personnel who built Iran’s first nuclear reactor at Bushehr which Tehran admits has been damaged by the virus.

One of the Russian nuclear staffers, questioned in Moscow Sunday, Oct. 3 by Western sources, confirmed that many of his Russian colleagues had decided to leave with their families after team members were detained for questioning at the beginning of last week. He refused to give his name because he and his colleagues intend to return to Iran if the trouble blows over and the detainees are quickly released after questioning.

Last Saturday, October 2, the Iranian Intelligence Minister, Heidar Moslehi, “announced that nuclear spies had been captured”, accused of sending “electronic worms through the internet”.  [Which is not how the attack was initiated according to more credible sources – JB.]

This was the first high-level Iranian admission that the Stuxnet virus had been planted by foreign elements to sabotage their entire nuclear program – and not just the Bushehr reactor. The comprehensive scale of the damage is attested to by the detention of Russian nuclear experts also at Natanz, Isfahan and Tehran.

“Hundreds of Russian scientists, engineers and technicians were responsible for installing the Siemens control systems in Iran’s nuclear complex and other facilities which proved most vulnerable to the cyber attack”, and as they were “the only foreigners with access to these heavily guarded plants”, they are prime suspects.

If it was not the Russians who worked this most inventive and effective form of sabotage ever contrived (and we don’t believe it was), those who did can now enjoy, as an extra cause for celebration, the discomfiture of the Russians. The real saboteurs, we guess, are laughing out of sheer Schadenfreude. And while we’re well aware that Stuxnet could ultimately be a threat to ourselves – to friend as well as foe just as nuclear weapons are – for the present we’re reasonably happy that this humiliating blow has been struck at the insufferable Iranian regime.

In fact, we confess, we are laughing too, and hope our readers feel like joining in.

  • philabor

    The news coverage seems to indicate that much of Iran's infrastructure is based on these Siemens controllers. This gives Stuxnet a nice homogenous population to infect. This is likely due to a heavy state hand in industrial and nuclear policy, and trade sanctions limiting their choices.

    In the US, industry past and present have been able choose their own automation, and most likely has a wide variety of PLC's, PAC's and other control systems running under a variety of software regimes. This makes us much more robust against a single attack. Not to mention which, there has been a large history of malware attacks on various computers since the early days, which caused us to build an “infrastructure” of defenses which are actually fairly robust.

  • Frank

    My comment to the Russians:

    If you lie down with camels you get up with fleas.

  • Deb

    Lol 🙂