Stuxnet is the virus which has infected the computers the Iranian nuclear centrifuges 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.
Today Iran lashed out at the German Computer Company Siemens accusing it of helping the United States and the “Zionist Entity” to put the Stuxnet virus into the computer systems running their nuclear centrifuges.
Gholamreza Jalali, head of Iran’s civilian defence, said the Stuxnet virus aimed at Iran’s atomic programme was the work of its two biggest foes and that the German company must take some of the blame.
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“The investigations show the source of the Stuxnet virus originated in America and the Zionist regime,” Jalali was quoted as saying.
Jalali said Iran should hold Siemens responsible for the fact that its control systems used to operate complicated factory machinery – known as Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) – had been hit by the worm.
“Our executive officials should legally follow up the case of Siemens SCADA software which prepared the ground for the Stuxnet virus,” he said.
“The Siemens company must be held accountable and explain how and why it provided the enemies with the information about the codes of SCADA software and paved the way for a cyber attack against us,” he said.
Stuxnet acted like computer cruise missile rather than a computer virus. The computers it targeted were not connected to the Internet, so it had to be secretly introduced into the Iranian system and hop through a set of unconnected computers, growing and adapting to security measures and other changes until it reached a computer that could bring it into the nuclear facility. And when it reached its target, the worm would have to secretly manipulate the computers running the Iranian nuclear program until its damage was done and then finally it would have to destroy itself without leaving a trace.
That’s exactly what happened both at Natanz, which houses the centrifuges Iran used for processing uranium into nuclear fuel, and at Bushehr, Iran’s nuclear power plant.
At Natanz, for almost 17 months, Stuxnet quietly worked its way into the system and targeted a specific component — the frequency converters made by the German equipment manufacturer Siemens that regulated the speed of the spinning centrifuges used to create nuclear fuel. The worm then took control of the speed at which the centrifuges spun, making them turn so fast in a quick burst that they would be damaged but not destroyed. And at the same time, the worm masked that change in speed from being discovered at the centrifuges’ control panel.
At this point no country or individual has taken credit for the Stuxnet virus which the Iranians claim has hurt their nuclear program, but not that much. It seems the the Iranians are complaining a lot about a virus that hasn’t “hurt their program that much.”