Iran announces arrests of alleged nuclear spies

Heidar Moslehi

Heidar Moslehi

The Iranian government has announced the arrest of an unspecified number of alleged nuclear spies, reportedly in connection with a sophisticated virus that infected computers used in Iran’s nuclear energy program. The arrests were publicized on Sunday by Heidar Moslehi, Iran’s Minister of Intelligence, who said those arrested had helped facilitate the spread of the so-called Stuxnet virus last June. The malicious program, which appears to have been designed to sabotage sensitive hardware components found specifically in nuclear centrifuges, has infected at least 100,000 computer systems worldwide, most of which are located in Iran. Speaking to Iranian media, Moslehi accused Israel and the United States of trying to sabotage the Iranian nuclear energy program, but noted that Iran’s intelligence services have resumed “complete supervision of cyberspace” and will successfully prevent “any leak or destruction” of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear research and development program by outside forces. But elsewhere in Tehran, Hamid Alipour, an Iranian government Senior Information and Technology official, admitted that technical experts are still working on containing the virus, which appears to be mutating. The reported mutation is probably directed by Stuxnet’s designers, who are said to be “able to communicate with thousands of infected machines using peer-to-peer networking”. Meanwhile, Israeli media report that some of Stuxnet’s directory names may point to an Israeli connection. The clues include two files named “myrtus” and “guava”, which may allude to Queen Esther, a Biblical character, whose Hebrew name, Hadassah, translates as “myrtle” in English. Another coding element that may point to an Israeli connection is the number “19790509”, which some say could refer to May 9, 1979, the date when Jewish Iranian businessman Habib Elghanian was executed by the revolutionary Islamic regime in Tehran.

About intelNews
Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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