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Stuxnet Used an Old Movie Trick to Fool Iran's Nuclear Program
From: InfoSec News <alerts () infosecnews org>
Date: Thu, 21 Nov 2013 06:16:59 +0000 (UTC)

http://www.nextgov.com/cybersecurity/2013/11/stuxnet-used-old-movie-trick-fool-irans-nuclear-program/74216/

By Connor Simpson
The Atlantic
November 20, 2013

In a fascinating new read, Foreign Policy's Ralph Langer explored the deep history of Stuxnet, the super computer virus jointly authored, allegedly, by American and Israeli intelligence services to attack Iranian nuclear facilities. In doing so , he learned the real story involves not one, but two viruses, including an early, previously unreported version of the virus that relied on the cyber-attack equivalent of the camera trick from the movie Speed.

Langer's impressive three-year investigation into the virus's effects on the Iranian nuclear program shows how it effectively tore the system limb-from limb. It reportedly destroyed 1,000 out of 5,000 nuclear centrifuges and, by Langer's estimates, set the program back by two full years. Langer also discovered that a much more complicated and lesser-known gambit than the one we're most familiar with, was already being carried out years earlier.

Stuxnet was allegedly jointly created by U.S. and Israeli military forces to infiltrate and then damage Iran's nuclear program from the inside. It became public knowledge after it malfunctioned — or worked a little too well — and infected millions of non-Iranian computers worldwide in the summer of 2010.

But years before the Stuxnet we know and love went to work, an early variant targeted Iran's Natanz nuclear facility. Natanz employs a complicated, cascading system of safeguards to prevent centrifuges used for uranium enrichment from overheating and malfunctioning in order to overcome the country's outdated and dubious nuclear technology. Stuxnet's genius was in its ability to override those safety systems, by infecting computers that weren't connected to the outside world, and without anyone realizing it was being done until it was too late.

What the very early Stuxnet virus was designed to do is "so far-out, it leads one to wonder whether its creators might have been on drugs," Langer says. But in reality, they may have got the idea from a brilliant 1994 action flick starring Reeves and Sandra Bullock.

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