Recently a team of inspectors from the United Nations Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) found a tiny amount of highly enriched uranium at one of Iran’s nuclear facilities. Most probably, there was more than a tiny amount hidden away; the uranium the IAEA found was enriched to 84%. Uranium purified to 90% can be used for a nuclear weapon. People don’t realize that Iran would have reached this level years ago if a file in a computer worm named after a biblical heroine didn’t set back Iran’s nuclear development.
The woman’s name was Esther, and her birth name was Hadassah.
Monday night, March 6, begins the holiday of Purim. It’s a Jewish holiday celebrating 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 2010 years, it happened again.
Almost 2,400 later, nothing much has changed. Persia is now called Iran, and its leadership still hates Jews.
In 2010, Queen Esther temporarily foiled the Persians (Iranians), delaying their plot to kill the Jews. Her sabotaging of Iran’s nuclear bomb program set the program back by two years.
The first time Esther defeated the evil in Persia, she used her beauty. In 2010 she used a computer worm named Stuxnet. I supposed Stuxnet was so successful because the Iranian Mullahs didn’t believe in Norton or any other computer security program. Perhaps they believed they could defeat a computer worm by cutting off its head.
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 a 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 out 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 virtual directory in the program referred to Queen Esther. That directory inside the virus was named “Myrtus.” Myrtus is the genus of the myrtle plant.
Why was the key directory named Myrtus?
One possibility is the person who developed Stuxnet was an amateur horticulturist. The word Myrtus was used because the myrtle plant is indigenous to and prevalent in various Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and North African areas. That probably wasn’t it. I understand the Supreme leader hasn’t done anything with plants because cutting off their body parts is too easy.
Note: by Supreme leader, we mean the Ayatollah, NOT Diana Ross.
Eliminating horticulture, the more likely explanation was that the name was an Israeli 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. Per the Purim story, Hadassah changed her name to Esther to hide her Jewish faith from the king before he picked her as Queen. Esther was instrumental in stopping the Persian empire from killing all Jews,
Given the constant Iranian threats against Israel, the use of Myrtus indicated a desire to send a message and allow the Jewish State to live rent-free in the Iranian leadership’s brains. Israel wanted to send them a message so that Iran’s leadership 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 more nervous. Many security experts saw the reference to Myrtus as a signature allusion to Esther and an apparent “flipping of the bird” in 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 Symantec software company, the program also refers to an Iranian Jewish leader executed by the Islamist regime.
“Export 16 [the program’s main installer] first checks the configuration data’s validity. After that, it checks the value’ NTVDM TRACE’ as the registry key.
If this value equals 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 May 9, 1979[1979-05-09]. That is an important 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. Still, in 2013 Edward Snowden told German news magazine Der Spiegel that the NSA and Israel co-wrote Stuxnet.
The use of 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 was about the Jews defeating the Persians.
Did they wear Purim costumes or eat hamantaschen while creating the computer worm? I doubt it. Stuxnet seems like a highly complex computer program, even for a biblical heroine.