Saturday night starts Purim, a Jewish holiday which celebrates the victory of Jewish people over the Ancient Persian King’s Grand Vizier, Haman who got permission from the king to kill all the Jews in the Persian Empire, What people don’t know is despite the 2000+ year difference, that same Biblical Queen who saved the Jews in the Purim Story, also protected the Jews when she sabotaged the Iranian nuclear bomb program.
Purim is one of those “They Tried to Kill US, We Won, Lets Eat,” type of Jewish holidays. In the story, Haman is defeated by the Jewish Queen Esther (the king didn’t know she was Jewish until the end of the story ) and her Uncle Mordechai (who was also hiding his faith) Queen Esther was sort of hiding her faith when she also had a role in protecting the Jews from the modern-day Persia (which is Iran). Seven years ago she delayed the Iranians quest for a nuclear weapon for about two years.
The first time she defeated Persia, Esther used her beauty, for her modern feat Esther used a computer worm named Stuxnet.
Stuxnet was malicious computer worm that, when it got into Iran’s computer systems, destroyed the rogue nation’s nuclear centrifuges. The job of the centrifuge is to enrich uranium so it could be used for reactors and/or weapons. This is done by spinning the impurities out of the uranium. The computer worm Stuxnet “took control” of the centrifuges and spun them of control, until they burned out. This cyber-attack slowed down Iran’s march toward a nuclear weapon. The worm was so successful that in 2011 both the United States and Israel pushed back their time-lines, and reported that Iran was a few years away from achieving nuclear weapons
The first directory inside the virus is named “Myrtus.” The person/people who developed the virus might have simply been amateur horticulturists, using the word Myrtus as because the myrtle plant is indigenous to — and prevalent in — various Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and North African areas. On the other hand the Hebrew word for myrtle (Hadas) is the root of the name Hadassah which which was Queen Esther’s Hebrew name before she changed it to hide her Jewish faith from the king. Given the constant Iranian threats against Israel, that use of Myrtus could probably indicated a Jewish or Israeli involvement.
Since Iran is the modern day Persia and the computer virus was meant to stop the destruction of millions of Jews in Israel, Myrtus was probably a message from Israel, something put in the virus just to make the paranoid Iranians even more nervous. Stuxnet is considered the first state-on-state cyber attack of its kind. National security and most cyber experts believe the operation was conducted jointly by Israel and the United States.
Many security experts saw the reference to Myrtus as a signature allusion to Esther, and a clear “flipping of the bird” in what was a technological and psychological battle as Israel tried breach Tehran’s most heavily guarded project.
Others doubt the Israelis were involved and say the word could have been inserted as deliberate misinformation, to implicate Israel. But that seems to be a long-shot implicate especially since many people know Queen Esther but few outside the Jewish faith know her original name.
In 2010 when Stuxnet was in the news the New York Times reported about the “Myrtus” issue and one former intelligence official who worked on the Iran desk said:
The Iranians are already paranoid about the fact that some of their scientists have defected and several of their secret nuclear sites have been revealed. Whatever the origin and purpose of Stuxnet, it ramps up the psychological pressure.
During a conference on the Stuxnet virus, an Israeli cyber intelligence expert Nimrod Kozlovski, head of Altal Information Security suggested that the Myrtus reference was an accident.
“The development and execution of Stuxnet is a stroke of genius no matter what country is behind it or what real damage was done to Iran,” said Kozlovski. “It is a landmark activity that opens the battlefield for global cyber warfare. But the word Myrtus appears by chance, not as a signature. Why would any designer, especially an Israeli, leave a signature with such a trace to Jewish history in ancient Persia? It is farfetched.”
Accident? Maybe not. Because just like the Biblical Queen, Israel wanted the “Jewishness” of the program to remain a secret. Or at the very least to remain in doubt so it would “haunt” the Iranians.
And the reference to Queen Esther is not the only Jewish connection to the Stuxnet virus. According to a paper on the computer worm by Symantec the program also refers to a Iranian Jewish leader who was executed by the Islamist regime.
“Export 16 [the program’s main installer] first checks that the configuration data is valid, after that it checks the value ‘NTVDM TRACE’ in the following registry key. If this value is equal to 19790509 the threat will exit” the paper continues. “This is thought to be an infection marker or a ‘do not infect’ marker. If this is set correctly infection will not occur. The value appears to be a date of May 9, 1979.”
That date is a significant date in Iranian Jewish history, on May 9, 1979 Iranian Jew Habib Elghanian was executed by a firing squad in Tehran sending shock waves through the closely knit Jewish community. He was the first Jew and one of the first civilians to be executed by the new Islamist government.”
At first there was no way to definitively prove whether the virus came from the US, Israel, or maybe some crazy hacker living in his mother’s basement, But in 2013 American traitor Edward Snowden told German news magazine Der Spiegel that the NSA and Israel co-wrote Stuxnet.
Eventually it was leaked that it was the US/Israel cooperation in creating Stuxnet program was put in motion by President Bush. Yes liberals this time you can say it, Bush did it!
The New York Times reported that Mr. Bush authorized a covert program to undermine the electrical and computer systems around Natanz, Iran’s major enrichment center. And that evolved into Stuxnet. They also reported that (to his credit )President Obama was first briefed on the program even before taking office. He liked the program and sped it up, according to officials familiar with the administration’s Iran strategy (sadly that may have been the last time Obama “stood up” to Iran’s nuke program).
Yossi Melman, who covered intelligence for the newspaper Haaretz and is at work on a book about Israeli intelligence over the past decade, said in a telephone interview with the NY Times that he suspected that Israel was involved.
He noted that Meir Dagan, head of Mossad, had his term extended last year partly because he was said to be involved in important projects. He added that in the past year Israeli estimates of when Iran will have a nuclear weapon had been extended to 2014.
“They seem to know something, that they have more time than originally thought,” he said.
Wherever it came from, the use of the word Myrtus should remind us any virus slowing down Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons no matter what country it came from, was replicating the events of the Purim Holiday Jews celebrate this weekend. Stuxnet It delayed the evil coming out of Persia. And just like Queen Esther whose real name was Hadassah, who ever created the Stuxnet computer worm was doing the work of God.