A new computer worm called Stuxnet has the capability of engaging country-specific targets, according to Voice of America. Stuxnet appears to have been designed to cause damage to Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant, though their project director, Mahmoud Jahfari, is claiming the damage done was negligible. Though it infected some employees’ privately owned software, it failed to impact operations by reaching main systems as intended. The malware has reached systems throughout the nation, authorities concede, but has not caused excessive damage. Iran is estimated to have suffered less than 59 percent of the Stuxnet attacks since being released earlier this year.
According to PC Mag, 58.85 percent of the attacks reached Iran, 18.22 hit Indonesia, 8.31 India, 2.57 Azerbaijan, and 1.56 reached the U.S. The numbers suggest the number of potential culprits, Western or otherwise, to be quite large, while the target is very clear.
The worm takes advantage of flaws in Siemen’s systems, the German company that provides software for the Bushehr plant, as reported by BBC News. The number of culprits who could have done this is rather large; however, it is believed that a state has sponsored the creation of the worm, as opposed to an independent group of hackers.
Cyberdefense has become a growing concern for the U.S., Russia, and China, and each country has developed stronger protections against one outside antagonist’s intent on circumventing government and military security firewalls. While the major actors on the world stage are playing defense, there is some evidence to suggest they are also on offense, as reported by MSNBC.com.
For example, China has a number of interests to defend against. They’re concerned with internal security and any strife that could result from unemployment combined with political upset. Consequently, the Chinese government tries to keep the public informed of any aggression they view coming from Taiwan, Japan, or the U.S.. In particular, there is a concern that, with the U.S. dominating the Pacific with its navy, the American fleet provides continued cover for Taiwanese separatism and prevents China from using pressure to encourage reunification. For that reason and others, China’s People’s Liberation Army has worked to develop stronger cyberwarfare capabilities targeting Pentagon networks and databases.
It would be in the interest of a number of state actors to disrupt Iran’s nuclear ambitions, ranging from Israel to the U.S. to European states. Even Russia and China may wish to surreptitiously undermine the effort, even though both states work closely with Iran on military and trade issues. Whoever may be behind the effort, the Stuxnet worm heralds a new era that’s been gradually opening up, an era of stealthy cyberwarfare intent on undermining national systems of communication, industry, and military readiness.
BBC News, “Stuxnet worm hits Iran nuclear plant staff computers”
Elizabeth Arrott, “Iran: Computer Malware Attacked, Failed to Harm Nuclear Plant” Voice of America
Larry Seltzer, “Who’s Behind Stuxnet? The Americans? The Israelis?” PC Magazine
Lolita C. Baldor, “Report: China’s cyberwarfare capabilities grow” MSNBC.com