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October 1, 2010

Stuxnet worm theories point to inside job

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by Janet Harris

The Stuxnet worm which attacked Iran’s nuclear power plant this week has caused a tsunami in the security world.

The malware, which is said to mark the beginning of a new era in cyberwarfare, was designed to attack industrial systems designed by Siemens.

Its specific target was a control mechanism which is used in Iran’s Bushehr nuclear reactor.

Although Iran admitted that laptops at the plant had been infected, it said that the main operating system was not compromised.

Technology site V3 reports that a Sophos consultant, Graham Cluley, suggested at the Virus Bulletin 2010 conference in Vancouver that the worm was written by someone with inside knowledge of Siemen’s computer systems.

The sophistication of the worm has also led to theories that it was created by a government to launch a targeted attack on Iran.

The worm contained the date 9 May 1979, which is when an Israeli businessman was executed in Iran.

The code is also said to contain the word ‘Myrtus’ which is believed to refer to a story in the Old Testament Book of Esther about a plot to kill all the Jews in Persia, which is the former name for Iran.

This is being used to link the origin of the worm to Israel.

While the focus has been on Iran, the Stuxnet has also been worming its way into systems in other countries.

Concern is now being raised that it could wreak havoc in China during an imminent national holiday when security staffing at major industrial sites will be minimal.

Stuxnet looks set to continue making waves for some time to come.

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