Wednesday night, March 16, begins the holiday of Purim. It’s a Jewish holiday that celebrates the victory of Jewish people led by Queen Esther over an ancient Persian king’s grand vizier, Haman. Haman got permission from the king to kill all the Jews in the Persian Empire, but before he could complete his plan, it was foiled by Queen Esther. But in recent years, it happened again.
Two thousand seven hundred years later, nothing much has changed. Persia is now called Iran, but they still hate Jews, and in 2010 that same Queen Esther temporarily foiled their plot to kill the Jews by sabotaging Iran’s nuclear bomb program setting the program back by two years.
The first time Esther defeated the evil in Persia, with her beauty. This time she used a computer worm named Stuxnet. I suppose the Iranian Mullahs don’t believe in Norton or any other computer security program.
Stuxnet is a malicious computer worm that destroyed the rogue nation’s nuclear centrifuges when it got into Iran’s computer systems. The job of the centrifuge is to enrich uranium so it can be used for reactors and/or weapons. It spins the impurities out of the uranium. Too bad they don’t have something like that for politicians.
Stuxnet “took control” of the Iran 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 timelines and reported that Iran was a few years away from achieving nuclear weapons.
While no country ever took credit for Stuxnet when it was first revealed, there was evidence that Israel (and Queen Esther) was behind the computer worm—evidence of biblical proportions.
Computer scientists who analyzed the Stuxnet virus found the essential directory in the program referred to Queen Esther.
That directory inside the virus was named “Myrtus.”
One possibility for picking that name is the person/people who developed Stuxnet may have been amateur horticulturists. They used the word Myrtus because the myrtle plant is indigenous to — and prevalent in — various Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and North African areas. And I understand that the Supreme leader hasn’t done anything to the plants (but the sheep are worried). However, the more likely explanation was that it was a mind game for the modern-day Persians, the rogue Iranian regime.
The Hebrew word for myrtle is Hadas which is the root of the name Hadassah. Hadassah was Queen Esther’s original name. According to the Purim story, Hadassah changed her name to Esther to hide her Jewish faith from the king before he picked her to be Queen. Given the constant Iranian threats against Israel, the use of Myrtus indicated a desire to send a message to live rent-free in the brains of the Iranian leadership. And they wanted to do it in a way that Iran would know that there was Jewish or Israeli involvement in Stuxnet but wouldn’t be able to prove it.
The computer virus was meant to stop the destruction of millions of Jews in Israel. Myrtus was placed to remind the modern-day Persia of the Purim story and make the paranoid Iranians even more nervous. Many security experts saw the reference to Myrtus as a signature allusion to Esther and an apparent “flipping of the bird” in what was a technological and psychological battle as Israel breached Tehran’s most heavily guarded project.
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.”
The reference to Queen Esther is not the only Jewish connection to the Stuxnet virus. According to a paper on the computer worm by the software company Symantec, the program also refers to an Iranian Jewish leader 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 1979050 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 refer to the date May 9, 1979[1979-05-09]. That 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 tightly 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 Edward Snowden told German news magazine Der Spiegel that the NSA and Israel co-wrote Stuxnet.
Eventually, it was leaked that US/Israel cooperation in creating the Stuxnet program was put in motion by President Bush. Yes, this time, it would be accurate for the liberals to make one of their favorite chants, “Bush did it!”
The New York Times reported President 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 President Obama was first briefed on the program even before taking office. According to officials familiar with the administration’s Iran strategy (sadly, that was the only time as president, Obama “stood up” to Iran’s nuke program).
The use of the word Myrtus should remind us that the 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 beginning Wednesday night. No reports reveal whether the Stuxnet developers followed the traditions of the Purim holiday they duplicated. The holiday about the Jews defeating the Persians. Did they wear Purim costumes or eat hamantaschen while creating the computer worm? Stuxnet seems like a very complicated computer program, so I highly doubt they worked while drinking to the point where they couldn’t tell the difference between Haman and Mordechai, another tradition. I will try to make up for their omission this Purim.
Queen Esther, whose real name Hadassah was referred to in the Stuxnet virus, was doing the work of God to defeat the Persians for a second time, thanks to the people who designed the Stuxnet computer worm. And they added a fine touch, flipping the bird to Iran’s nuke program.
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