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How the Stuxnet Worm Was Created

Published: January 16th 2011
in News » World

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visits the Natanz nuclear fuel enrichment facility outside Tehran in April 2008.

In late September of last year, Iran announced a delay to the launch of their nuclear power plant.  And while their reasons behind it were vague, the truth had already began spreading through the media and by all accounts, it sounded outragous.  


Rumors quickly started spreading that a virus, named Stuxnet, was responsible for the delay.  The virus, a custom made worm widely considered the most sophisticated to have ever been developed, was created to attack industrial machineries, and more specifically, nuclear power plants.  


As the news spread, so did the assumption that Israel, and possibly the U.S., was behind the Stuxnet worm.  The worm was much too sophisticated to be developed by private individuals, and Israel and the U.S. were probably the only countries with the resources, will and reasons to push ahead with this implausible plan.


And while there has been no confirmation to these assumptions, the New York Times recently published a great article detailing the development of the worm and the possible roles of each country.  The NY Times' authors hypothesize that Israel's infamous Dimona complex in the Negev desert, the site where the never-acknowledged nuclear power program was developed, is also the site where the Stuxnet worm was tested and refined to make sure it worked with Iran's nuclear power plant equipment and software.  


As per the NY Times article:


"Behind Dimona’s barbed wire, the experts say, Israel has spun nuclear centrifuges virtually identical to Iran’s at Natanz, where Iranian scientists are struggling to enrich uranium. They say Dimona tested the effectiveness of the Stuxnet computer worm, a destructive program that appears to have wiped out roughly a fifth of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges and helped delay, though not destroy, Tehran’s ability to make its first nuclear arms."


And to further demonstrate how incredibly elaborate this worm is:


"The worm itself now appears to have included two major components. One was designed to send Iran’s nuclear centrifuges spinning wildly out of control. Another seems right out of the movies: The computer program also secretly recorded what normal operations at the nuclear plant looked like, then played those readings back to plant operators, like a pre-recorded security tape in a bank heist, so that it would appear that everything was operating normally while the centrifuges were actually tearing themselves apart."


The article goes on to detail how the Stuxnet virus came to be and the U.S. government's role in the operation.  Much to the surprise of many, it was Obama that accelerated the development of the virus program which was initiated by Bush.  The worm was seen as the only possible means of slowing down Iran's progress without starting a military war.


Israeli officials now believe that Iran's launch has been delayed until 2015.  If true, the results of Stuxnet were much more significant than a military strike would have been, which by Israel's estimations would have delayed their program by only 3 years.


For more on the article, click here.  It's a fascinating read.

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