Experts see nation-state behind sophisticated computer virus attack
September 29, 2010 2 Comments
By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Computer forensics specialists are split as to the purpose and initial target of a sophisticated computer virus that infected computers used in the Iranian government’s nuclear energy program. The virus, named Stuxnet, was discovered in Iran in June by a Belarusian computer security firm doing business in the Islamic Republic. It has since infected at least 100,000 computer systems in countries such as Brazil, India, Russia and the United States. But the primary target of the virus appears to have been the Iranian nuclear energy program, specifically computers located at the Islamic Republic’s nuclear reactor facility in Bushehr and the uranium enrichment plant in Natanz. Several commentators, including Wired magazine, dispute the existence of any evidence pointing to a clear target inside Iran. But Israeli media maintain that computers at Natanz were the primary target of Stuxnet, and that subsequent infections at computer labs at Bushehr were in fact an unintended side effect. Putting aside differences regarding the primary target of the virus, most experts agree that the complexity and sophistication of Stuxnet’s code point to the sort of programming resources that would normally be available only to “a well-resourced nation-state”. Israel’s Ha’aretz daily identifies Unit 8200 of the Israeli Military Intelligence, or the Mossad, as chief suspects behind Stuxnet. The latter appears specifically designed to sabotage sensitive hardware components found specifically in centrifuges. In the summer of 2009, the Reuters news agency revealed the existence of a covert Israeli cyberwarfare scheme directed against the Iranian nuclear energy program.