Print 65 comment(s) - last by wordsworm.. on Mar 13 at 3:44 PM

Source code could be adapted to break factories, power grids, the sewage system, and other critical utilities

For as much as the U.S. is maligned for being oft victimized by internet aggressors -- some of whom are mere high school age children -- the nation is believed to have conducted one very audacious and surprising effective (to an extent) cyber black ops in history.

I. StuxNet -- The U.S.'s Most Danger Cyber "Black Op"

In June 2010, security experts found a new type of worm -- the phrase commonly used to refer to a self-spreading malicious computer program.  They dubbed it "Stuxnet".

But unlike most worms, which try to accumulate a stockpile of infected machines for spamming, Bitcoin mining, or distributed denial of service purposes, Stuxnet was disinterested in doing anything malicious to most of the machines it was infecting.  Rather, it just wanted to spread, inching towards its true target -- Iran.

In fact, it was aimed at a very specific target in Iran -- the nation's secretive nuclear refining facilities.  And after infecting over 60,000 personal computers in Iran, it reached the facilities.

Iran nuclear facilities
The U.S. and Israeli reportedly used a computer virus to sabotage Iran's growing nuclear program -- a halfway successful effort that did wreak some havoc at Iran's processing facilities. [Image Source: CBS]

In the summer of 2010 it spun hundreds of centrifuges -- produced by German electronics giant Siemens -- to their breaking points.  It was a major setback for Iran's nuclear program.  Unsurprisingly Iran -- which insists that its nuclear program was intended for peaceful and not weapons-making purposes -- was quick to lash out at "Western spies" for the sabotage effort.

But details that have emerged since have proved that their is likely truth in those claims, as evidence points to the U.S. and Israeli jointly developing the malware, possibly with other allies.

II. Mission Success?  Or a Darker Reality?

Stuxnet seemed a very effective attack -- even if the eventual implication of U.S. and Israeli involvement was a public relation setback for the alleged authors.  But ultimately, it did not succeed in permanently destroying Iran's nuclear program.  Today the U.S. believes that Iran not only has nuclear power -- it is thought to be close to possessing one or more nuclear weapons.

Computer worm
The attack failed to stop Iran's nuclear efforts.  Worse yet, researchers fear the worm's source could be turned against its authors. [Image Source: TechTear]

And Iran -- the greatest tech power in the Middle East outside of Israel -- showed itself to be growing increasingly sophisticated in digital efforts, downing a U.S. unmanned drone in a recent high-profile embarrassment.  (President Obama requested the drone be returned, Iran mocked him by sending toy replicas.)

And aside from not truly achieving its intended long-term effect, the decision to release Stuxnet may have much more dire consequences.  The source code for the worm has recently been decompiled and is floating around on hacker sites, according to a new 60 Minutes report by CBS Corp. (CBS).

III. War 2.0: U.S. May See Its Own Source Code Turned Against it

In its primetime special, CBS reporters argue that releasing the worm may have been akin to Pandora of Greek mythology opening a box that let loose chaos and destruction into her world.  The report states that various groups ranging from independent malicious hackers to white hat security researchers to foreign intelligence agencies are all racing to adapt the highly virulent, highly successful worm for use in new attacks.

Such attacks could destroy machinery at sewage plants, electrical grid locations, traffic signals, or other applications.  Such critical infrastructure often is air-gapped, but is sensitive to connections during routine maintenance.  As the air-gapping (not having a physical internet connection to the outside world) gives a traditional sense of security, these types of devices may have less robust security mechanisms, and hence be more vulnerable to mechanical or electrical overdriving.

Only time will tell whether a Stuxnet variant will come back to bite the U.S.  But given the success of AnonymousLulzSec, and other hacker collectives in openly defying and attacking the U.S. government digitally, it's not infeasible to imagine such groups looking to cripple vital U.S. infrastructure in the near future.  Or alternatively, hostile nations like Iran or North Korea could return fire, using the U.S. and Israel's own code against them.

Sources: CBS [1], [2]

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

RE: Here starts the cyber (hot) coldwar
By bobsmith1492 on 3/5/2012 9:25:39 PM , Rating: 0
The neighbor that has been invaded over and over and had to learn to defend itself just to survive?

RE: Here starts the cyber (hot) coldwar
By Ringold on 3/5/12, Rating: 0
RE: Here starts the cyber (hot) coldwar
By wordsworm on 3/5/2012 11:50:33 PM , Rating: 1
You got that half right. You can't use logic.

Mainstream media is right wing. Right wingers blame Jews for killing Jesus.

What's problematic with Israel is that it was right wing Germany that had committed the atrocity against Jews. Those Jews then went to Israel and put Palestinians in concentration camps. Ironic, isn't it? Sometimes one must wonder if the Nazis and German-Jews had more in common than is polite to point out. Israel should have been formed out of a piece of Germany since it was the German Nazis who committed the atrocities in the first place, not the Palestinians. That's something that Iran has pointed out.

The reason that leftists say that Israel shouldn't retaliate against the right wing Muslim countries, like Lebanon, was to prevent the widening of the conflict. In other words, it's better for western nations to take on Israel's enemies rather than Israel itself. At least, that's the idea.

By runutz on 3/6/2012 12:03:45 AM , Rating: 2
So your argument is that LEFT WINGERS are Christians since (presumed all) Right wingers blame Jews for killing Jesus?

"Do not adjust your monitor. we have control of transmission"

By Ringold on 3/6/2012 12:47:44 AM , Rating: 2
Those Jews then went to Israel and put Palestinians in concentration camps.

Minus, you know, the gas chambers. At any rate, that bit of history has to be water under the bridge, or like the Hatfields & McCoys or whatever, you can battle back and forth like cavemen until the end of history. The facts are that Israel is there, it's not going anywhere, and it'd be wrong to ask for the children of the holocaust to pay for the sins of their fathers anyway. There's many Palestinians still living inside Israel to boot. That history has to eventually be buried for civilized people to move on sounds logical to me, apparently not to you. Maybe America should commit mass suicide by marching in to the sea and return all 50 states to the native Americans?

In other words, it's better for western nations to take on Israel's enemies rather than Israel itself. At least, that's the idea.

I don't use logic, and yet you make that laughable case. Or, at least you pretend its valid. As I pointed out, the UN was worse than useless in the Lebanon case. Missiles would still be raining down on Israeli cities if left up to the UN to resolve the issue. Israel understands people like you on the left have no balls so it's up to them to defend themselves against their hostile neighbors. Which is exactly why they've told us recently that, no, they will not give the US 24 hours warning prior to a strike on Iran, as they know we'd probably undermine, outright try to block, or leak the intel. I don't see where I'm being illogical, based on the facts of recent history.

Not that Israel is without some blame; it really, really needs to reign in those extremists building all their settlements.

And who the hell is out whining about Jews killing Jesus asides from whats-his-drunk-ass-face face? Mel Gibson was it?

RE: Here starts the cyber (hot) coldwar
By JediJeb on 3/6/2012 6:00:32 PM , Rating: 2
Israel should have been formed out of a piece of Germany since it was the German Nazis who committed the atrocities in the first place, not the Palestinians. That's something that Iran has pointed out.

Hmmm, and just why were the Jews living in Germany in the first place? Oh, because they were driven from their homeland of several thousand years by Rome, Assyrians, Egyptians, Persians(Iran) ect all during the last 2000 years. Then when they return they are called invaders.

Of course I won't say that many other western countries are not to blame because just before WW2 when they tried to leave Germany we all turned them away and sent them back to be slaughtered by Hitler.

Ask yourselves this, if you were forced out of your house for years, then returned and found someone else was living there even though you still owned it, would you just walk away or stand up and fight to get back what was yours? The same thing works on a national scale just like it does on a personal level. I guess those opposed to Israel existing where it does also think that Ukraine, Georgia, Poland, Hungary and the other countries of the former Soviet Block should bow down and again submit to control from Russia. Israel has as much right to exist as Ukraine does, but you are always going to have places where different cultures and governments collide on what they believe they each have a right to and who should and should not be allowed to exist.

By wordsworm on 3/13/2012 3:44:44 PM , Rating: 2
Jews and Palestinians lived together on that land and fought to free their land from the British conquerors. Then, suddenly, with the huge influx of German-Russian-European Jewish population, Palestinians were essentially shoved into camps and left there. Don't forget that the OT has an account of the Jews being driven out of Egypt and into Israel. So, there were Palestinians already living there when they got there. I'm not against Jews living with Palestinians. If Canada had volunteered a chunk of Canada for those Jews to come and live in, I think it would have been great. Consider that some of the greatest minds of the 20th century were Jewish Germans: many doctors and scientists and artists come from that population.

By chris2618 on 3/6/2012 3:35:21 AM , Rating: 2
And of course chemical weapons are the way to do that.

By BZDTemp on 3/6/2012 4:39:16 AM , Rating: 1
Would that be the same country that has been holding people in camps for decades and is permanently occupying another country while importing people from Russia to live in settlements on occupied land?

The country that is refusing UN to put in peacekeepers, isn't beyond using even gunships and fighter jets in occupied areas routinely killing civilians and even using white phosphorus bombs?

What Israel is doing isn't defense it's government run terror and it needs to stop.

"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki