Stuxnet is the virus which has infected the computers the Iranian nuclear centrifuges for almost a year, causing them to be damaged. The job of the centrifuge is to purify Uranium so it could be used for reactors and/or weapons. Stuxnet “takes control” of the centrifuge and spins them of control so they burn out. Until recently Iran had repeatedly denied that the complex computer worm had affected its nuclear program. In November, the UN said Iran had temporarily halted most of its uranium enrichment. It is clear that this cyber-attack has slowed down Iran’s march toward a nuclear weapon. Both the United States and Israel have pushed back their time-lines saying that Iran is now a few years away from achieving nuclear weapons.
Now it seems a second virus has infected the Iranian weapons program, Stars Iran’s Mehr news agency quoted Gholam Reza Jalali, the head of an Iranian civil defense organization on Monday saying the so-called Stars virus is compatible with the targeted computer system, but he did not specify the target or what the virus might do. He said that Stars is part of a cyber-war against Iran’s nuclear program (you think?).
“Fortunately, our young experts have been able to discover this virus and the Stars virus is now in the laboratory for more investigations,” Jalali was quoted as saying. He did not specify the target of Stars or its intended impact.
“The particular characteristics of the Stars virus have been discovered,” Jalali said. “The virus is congruous and harmonious with the [computer] system and in the initial phase it does minor damage and might be mistaken for some executive files of government organizations.”
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According to Mr. Jalali the Stuxnet worm, which disabled the centrifuges associated with Iran’s Bushehr nuclear reactor last year, still posed a potential risk. Iran said in September that staff computers at Bushehr had been hit but that the plant itself was unharmed. But Bushehr has not been started up, missing several deadlines putting Iran’s statements about Stuxnet not doing any damage into question.
Jalali said Stuxnet might still pose a risk. “We should know that fighting the Stuxnet virus does not mean the threat has been completely tackled, because viruses have a certain life span and they might continue their activities in another way.”
He urged the government to take action against the enemies he said were waging cyber war on Iran.
“Perhaps the Foreign Ministry had overlooked the options to legally pursue the case, and it seems our diplomatic apparatus should pay more attention to follow up the cyber wars staged against Iran,” Jalali said.
Iran has accused the United States and Israel of launching Stuxnet, which was publicly identified last June and reportedly mutated and infected at least 30,000 pieces of computerized industrial equipment in the following months. It will be interesting to follow the development of Stars to see if it too, does what sanctions haven’t, slow down the Iranian march to attaining status as a nuclear power.