THE cyber war may be under way at this time. No, I’m not talking about hackers attacking their many targets; or cyber criminals emptying bank accounts. I’m talking about nation-state attacking nation-state using information technology to cause injury to infrastructure and/or its people. In the last year or so, we’ve seen attacks on US government computer sites accessing highly classified documents; probably by another nation-state. More recently we’ve seen evidence of a direct attack on Iran, and Israel is the probable attacker.
A Belarus-based security company has reported that the Stuxnet, a highly sophisticated computer malware that has spread through Iran, Indonesia and India; was built to destroy operations at one target: possibly Iran’s Bushehr nuclear reactor. After breaking the encryption of the worm and analyzing the software code, they found several things that lead to this assumption. First, the programmed target of Stuxnet is a specific Siemens industrial control system model used at the Iranian Bushehr reactor plant being constructed; and second, the programming of the malware is so sophisticated and complex that the analysts’ opinion is that it could only have been developed by a nation-state. By the way…having control of these industrial control devices could cause catastrophic damage to a nuclear reactor; much the same way the Three Mile Island reactor went into core meltdown because one valve was closed by mistake.
Adding credence to this scenario is the development of and/or existence of cyber warfare strategies by the US, Great Britain, Russia, and China…and those are only the ones we know about. The US department of defense has created a cyber warfare command that has been heavily recruiting Internet security specialists (read warriors) to protect our cyber infrastructure and attack those of other nation states if necessary. See my recent article Wanted: Cyber Warriors for more on this. And for more on the Stuxnet analysis see the Computerworld UK article Stuxnet virus may be aimed at Iran nuclear reactor.
As I stated recently “Ladies and Gentlemen: remain seated and fasten your seatbelts” we’re in for quite a ride. The question is, where do we go from here?
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