Stuxnet, the worm created by the US and Israel for breaking down Iran’s nuclear plant Natanz got out of their control
An article published today in the New York Times shows that the Stuxnet virus-written and deployed by the US and Israeli government-targeting the Iranian nuclear plant Natanz got out in the wild. It seems that the purpose of the code was to set back the Iranian nuclear research program by commanding the control hardware responsible for the spin rate of the centrifuge equipment. The important aspect of this is the fact that the worm only targeted this specific nuclear plant, it was never intended to spread on the Internet.
The network at Natanz is air-gapped, which made it very difficult for the people who made the plan to introduce the code into the network. They needed someone with physical access to the site to get the worm inside through thumb drives (this is also the manner how the first versions of the worm were distributed). To quote one of the architects of the plan: ‘It turns out there is always an idiot around who doesn’t think much about the thumb drive in their hand.’
The way Stuxnet spread outside Natanz’s network is most probably on a laptop. Fortunately, security researchers were able to annihilate it.
Due to the success the Stuxnet cyber worm has registered in slowing down the Iranian nuclear program and many other industrial systems around the world, variations of this malware are expected in 2011.
According to eWeek, the Stuxnet worm might have damaged up to 1,000 Iranian centrifuges, after infecting more than 62,000 computer systems in Iran alone. The very efficient and complex Stuxnet cyber worm raises serious concerns that its variants will manage to affect other systems around the world – beyond the traditional information technology targets. Read more
Discovered this year in June in Iran, Stuxnet has already infected more then 100000 computer systems world wide and is not as it first seemed a sophisticated windows virus designed to steal data. It apparently contains code targeting Siemens Simatic WinCC SCADA systems, which are control systems that manage pipelines, nuclear plants and various utility and manufacturing equipment. Despite these discoveries, the specific sabotage function has no yet been discovered. Read more
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. Read more
As some of you may know, the Stuxnet worm (and Conficker) has been running amok on both private and corporate networks. The malware spreading via USB devices is always the source of new threats. The latest development of Stuxnet exploits zero day vulnerabilities to target supervisory control firms and data acquisition (Scada) and other industrial systems. Such systems are being used to control pipelines’ pressure or motor work rates on industrial factory floors. Typical environments can be oil pipelines and power-plants, factories etc.
Conficker/Stuxnet detects platforms with Scada systems installed on and uses Windows vulnerabilities to gain access and spread through the network. In the light of current events and the continuous spread of the worm through USB ports and USB portable devices, endpoint security and data loss prevention solution developer CoSoSys has created a four-step strategy against Stuxnet that’s extremely easy to implement: Read more
These systems have a mainly industrial usage. They are being used to control pipelines’ pressure or motor work rates on industrial factory floors. Typical environments can be oil pipelines and power-plants, factories etc. Read more