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Iran Delays Start of Nuclear Plant

Published: September 30th 2010
in News » World

Iranian Atomic Energy Organization Logo

The launch of the Bushehr reactor in Iran has been delayed until January, two months later than announced.


The announced delay has been blamed on several factors, including “severe hot weather”, but the sophisticated Stuxnet computer virus which had affected the plant, and thousands of other computers in Iran, is not considered the cause for delay.


Iran’s foreign ministry has blamed its country’s enemies for what they describe as a “new game of soft warfare”. “We implemented measured to protect our computers last year, but during the past two months, these [cyber attack] activities increased dramatically,” said Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization.


“Fortunately, we were able to neutralize the enemy’s objective without involving the media. The fact these activities are continuing smoothly is evidence of this,” he added.


The Stuxnet virus, which first stuck several weeks ago, has been targeting computer systems found in factories, called supervisory control and data acquisition systems, or SCADA. This attack is not the first SCADA attack on record. Last year, hackers got into the SCADA that controls U.S. power systems. Much like the recent attack, this attack was blamed on foreign powers.


The surprising fact is that the anti-virus technology in SCADA is relatively week when compared to traditional business systems and consumer electronics. Due to the ease of infiltration, and the high profile targets, these attacks will likely continue until they are better secured.


While some news outlets have reported that Israel and the U.S. are behind the attack on the Bushehr reactor, it realistically could be any of the countries in the area including Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and the U.A.E who have all publicly opposed Iran’s nuclear ambitions.


Experts say there’s no proof Suxnet was developed to target nuclear plants in Iran, although US officials last month said that Stuxnet was the first worm specifically created to take over systems that control the inner workings of industrial plants.


So far Stuxnet has attacked 45,000 computer systems around the world. Symantec’s analysis of the code showed that nearly 60 per cent of the computers infected with the Stuxnet were in Iran. An additional 18 per cent were in Indonesia and less than two per cent were in the U.S.


Due to the lack of reliable information out of Iran, it’s not clear what other Iranian sites were infected, but they could include electrical plants, water filtration, and oil delivery.

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