Back in 2008, assuming that the human factor would eventually fail at some point and people would make the mistake of plugging an unsecured memory stick into a military laptop, several memory sticks were scattered in a US military base in the Middle East that was providing support for the Iraq war. All these memory sticks were deliberately infected with a computer worm.
It resulted in the self-propagation of a computer worm into the computer system of Centcom – the central command of the US military. The eradication process took 14 months. Apparently this attack, acknowledged by the Pentagon only in august 2010, was very similar to a Stuxnet worm attack which was used in attempts against Iraq’s nuclear facilities and Iran’s nuclear programme.
The attacks appear to have been highly funded, this bringing forth the possibility of being orchestrated by another country. The Stuxnet worm has infected 30,000 of Iran’s computers and was apparently delivered by intelligence operatives. This tactic appears to be an almost duplicate of the cyber attack against Centcom.
After these attacks, the US gas attempted an exercise called “Cyber Storm III”, an exercise that had as main purpose the countering an all-out cyber war. The exercise that involved government agencies and 60 private organisations in various sectors such as banking, chemical, nuclear enery, IT took place on Thuesday. The results have yet to be disclosed.
James Lewis of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington stated:
“Cyber war is already here.We are in the same place as we were after the invention of the aeroplane. It was inevitable someone would work out how to use planes to drop bombs. Militaries will now have a cyber-war capability in their arsenals. There are five already that have that capacity, including Russia and China.”
He added the he believes only 3 countries have the drive and means capable of launching the Stuxnet attack on Iran: the US, Israel and the UK.
Lewis also believes that a deliberate hacking of an electric generator at the Idaho National Laboratory has previously proven that infrastructure can be persuaded to destroy itself.
“There is growing concern that there has already been hostile reconnaissance of the US electricity grid,” he said.
Due to the fact that Israel has a specialised cyber war unit, called “unit 8200”, some analysts have been led to believe that the Stuxnet attack against Iran was orchestrated by this country.
The fact that a file called Myrthus, a reference to the book of Esther and Jewish pre-emption is present in the worm’s structure can be a proof but also a red-hering.
“Reality has quickly caught up” says Dave Clemente, a researcher into conflict and technology at he International Security Programme at Chatham House in London. “You look at the Stuxnet worm. It is of such complexity it could only be a state behind it,” Clemente said.
He also points out that the US and UK are putting large ammounts of resources ino cyber warfare defense. According to his statements, a centre for cyber security operations in GCGQ and a new office of cyber security in the Cabinet Office have taken form.
A few steps against Stuxnet infections can be found here