Great is the worm, and its ineffable creator 7

Many of our readers are as fascinated by the Stuxnet worm as we are, and as happy that it is sabotaging Iran’s nuclear program.

For those who would like to know more about what it does and how it does it, Ed Barnes at Fox News goes into some detail. Here are quotations from his report:

The target was seemingly impenetrable; for security reasons, it lay several stories underground and was not connected to the World Wide Web. And that meant Stuxnet had to act as sort of a computer cruise missile: As it made its passage through a set of unconnected computers, it had to grow and adapt to security measures and other changes until it reached one that could bring it into the nuclear facility.

When it ultimately found its target, it would have to secretly manipulate it until it was so compromised it ceased normal functions.

Barnes explains more about how it works, and comes to this:

Masking itself from the plant’s security and other systems, the worm then ordered the centrifuges to rotate extremely fast, and then to slow down precipitously. This damaged the converter, the centrifuges and the bearings, and it corrupted the uranium in the tubes. It also left Iranian nuclear engineers wondering what was wrong, as computer checks showed no malfunctions in the operating system.

Time passed, the Iranian nuclear engineers and computer experts continued to be baffled, and the worm grew stronger and stronger, proliferated, and became ever more effective.

Estimates are that this went on for more than a year, leaving the Iranian program in chaos. And as it did, the worm grew and adapted throughout the system. As new worms entered the system, they would meet and adapt and become increasingly sophisticated.

Servers were traced to two unexpected places:

During this time the worms reported back to two servers that had to be run by intelligence agencies, one in Denmark and one in Malaysia. The servers monitored the worms and were shut down once the worm had infiltrated Natanz. Efforts to find those servers since then have yielded no results.

This went on until June of last year, when a Belarusan company working on the Iranian power plant in Beshehr discovered it in one of its machines. It quickly put out a notice on a Web network monitored by computer security experts around the world. Ordinarily these experts would immediately begin tracing the worm and dissecting it, looking for clues about its origin and other details.

But that didn’t happen, because within minutes all the alert sites came under attack and were inoperative for 24 hours.

The Iranian technicians labor on in an atmosphere of dread, fearing for their very lives which have become “a living hell“.

As Iranians struggled with the setbacks, they began searching for signs of sabotage. From inside Iran there have been unconfirmed reports that the head of the plant was fired shortly after the worm wended its way into the system and began creating technical problems, and that some scientists who were suspected of espionage disappeared or were executed. And counter intelligence agents began monitoring all communications between scientists at the site, creating a climate of fear and paranoia.

Even harder to find, and perfectly invulnerable, is the nameless Mind that made the Worm and sent it to do its work.

All praise to it!

Posted under Commentary, Iran, Islam, jihad, Technology, War by Jillian Becker on Wednesday, December 1, 2010

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