You already know about the Stuxnet worm, developed by Israel and the United States to destroy Iran's nuclear reactors. The worm later escaped "into the wild" after Israel turned off its kill switch. We still don't know why the Israelis did that.
David Sanger has written a book titled Confront and Conceal
, which offers new details about this foray into cyber war. The New York Times review of this book
is both revealing and bizarre. Bizarre, because the review discusses Stuxnet at great length without mentioning it by name. (A new Times policy...? Apparently, there has been some criticism of the Grey Lady for being too loose lipped about worm weaponry.)
Bizarre, too, because the NYT never mentions the most important fact: Stuxnet is loose, it's all over the world, it may be on your computer right now -- and it has an equally ominpresent and rather more ominous cousin known as Flame
Take a look at what Stuxnet can do, then tell me if you still feel cool knowing that this thing is both ubiquitous and under Israeli control:
In one of the most impressive steps in the cybercampaign, the inserted software recorded the operation of the centrifuges. Then, as the computer worm took control of the machines and began destroying them, the software played back the signals of the normal operation of the centrifuges. “The plant operators were clueless,” Mr. Sanger writes. “There were no warning lights, no alarm bells, no dials gyrating wildly. But anyone down in the plant would have felt, and heard, that the centrifuges were suddenly going haywire. First came a rumble, then an explosion.” This is an account that long will be consulted by anyone trying to understand not just Iran but warfare in the 21st century.
Even if you don't mind malware of this sort on your personal system, do you want the Israelis to control the computers that control our power grid and military infrastructure?
Perhaps that disturbing thought explains why the Obama administration seems to be quietly encouraging
people to talk about Stuxnet -- and about the more generalized topic of cyberwarfare.
According to Sanger, the Pentagon opposed the use of cyberwarfare against Iran. On the other hand, David Ignatius
says that the Pentagon just loves
the idea of cyberwar and wants a whole lot of money developing new technologies.
One point seems inarguable: The United States and Israel have committed an act of war against Iran. If Iran or any other country had done the same to us, the U.S. would consider itself under attack. Last year, Obama made retaliation "by any means necessary" official policy
in its International Strategy for Cyberspace.
The head of Kaspersky labs says that cyberwarfare can bring about the end of the world as we know it
Like Stuxnet, Flame attacks Windows operating systems. Considering this reality, Kaspersky was emphatic: “Software that manages industrial systems or transportation or power grids or air traffic must be based on secure operating systems. Forget about Microsoft, Linux or Unix.”
Kaspersky believes the evolution from cyber war to cyber terrorism comes from the indiscriminate nature of cyber weapons. Very much like a modern-day Pandora’s Box, Flame and other forms of malware cannot be controlled upon release. Faced with a replicating threat that knows no national boundaries, cyber weapons can take down infrastructure around the world, hurting scores of innocent victims along the way.
According to Sanger, the code name for the program that created Stuxnet was "Olympic Games." According to Ars Technica
, Flame uses the password Lifestyle 2 when it uploads stolen data to various servers.