Stuxnet was the first opening salvo in the cyberwarfare environment that mattered. It is one of the most sophisticated weapon systems ever devised and it is the Trinity event in war. Like the atomic bomb, the first use of the weapon sparked an arms race and nuclear technological development that has yet to subside. After Nagasaki, every country a dime to spend on nuclear technology spent it.
The malicious worm was discovered by a Ukrainian computer security worker named Sergey Ulasen who found it on a computer operating normally on the Microsoft Windows platform. It was probably introduced on a flash drive on on an infected computer transported to the Iranian nuclear facility at Natanz. The Windows system hides the virus and allows it to seek out Siemens Step7 operating controls. It then takes over the programmable logic controllers which operate complicated machine driven manufacturing procedures.
This cyber weapon changed the spin rate of the centrifuges the Iranians were suing to refine uranium into fissionable material. The centrifuges either spun far to fast, or far too slow. So either uranium gas was being created too quickly and greater quantities tan the refinery was able to process, or the centrifuge were not creating gas at all. The result was a facility inundated with uranium gas and radiation and thousands of delicate machines wrecked. A Zero Day is a hidden flaw or portal into an operating system that cannot be closed. The Stuxnet technology exploited four zero day flaws and brought the nuclear program to grinding halt. The Root Kit ( a collection of malicious computer viruses that allow a hacker the ability to do things like hide the malicious infection from operators) effectively told the refinery staff that everything was alright until suddenly there was a catastrophic failure.
Eric Chien of Symantec told VICE reports that dissembling this virus showed a tremendous sophistication, and what he referred to as the fingerprints of attorneys all over it. Stuxnet could have wrecked the entire Iranian economy or selectively chosen other targets, the servers at military bases, the electrical plants I of key estuaries, and so forth. Instead, it was designed to attack one system and one system alone.
Stuxnet has three modules. A worm that made the attack, A link file that copied the virus and Root Kit that hid the attack. The virus was many years in the making, possibly beginning as early as 2005, and it probably began under George W. Bush and was amplified under Obama. It was probably a joint Israeli and US venture.
The fact of the matter is that there is no way for us to prevent a sovereign country from producing nuclear weapons. It seems odd to people across the world watch the US, the only nation that has ever used a nuclear weapon, the only nation that has over 7000 warheads and the only nation to tell other nations they cannot create this technology.
This will probably not work, I am thinking.
Worse, we have now opened the door to cyberwar in a way that we might regret. Actions have consequences. I am not implying that we should have done nothing to stop Iran. I am saying that there is nothing we can really to stop Iran or anyone from developing internet warfare technology. All you need is a motivated group of geniuses and a laptop or two.