At least thirty thousand computers in Iran, including some controlling the soon to be online nuclear power plant at Bushehr has been infected by a computer worm called Stuxnet designed to take over systems of industrial plants.
Roger Simon, of Pajamas Media, is quoting Richard Falkenrath of the Chertoff Group as stating that the cyber attack on Iran was likely done by a “state actor” rather than a group of private hackers. Israel is at the top of the list of countries that would have a motive and the capability to infect computer systems in Iran with a cyber worm. Iran has been embarked on a drive to create a nuclear arsenal and has made no secret of its desire to wipe Israel off the map.
While the Obama administration has been sticking to diplomatic approaches to attempt to dissuade Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, Israel has been looking at a number of military options, including an air bombing campaign and missile strikes from submarines deployed in the Persian Gulf with the tacit approval of Saudi Arabia.
A cyber attack would have the virtue of not risking lives, of carrying with it a degree of deniability, and the potential to disrupt Iranian military and industrial operations from days to even months. Israel is a technologically advanced country, with lots of access to computer technology and expertise. Iran, on the other hand, is dependent on the outside world for technological expertise, primarily Russia and some countries in Europe.
Cyber war is the new frontier in the projection of military power to harass and even cripple an enemy’s ability to make war or even sustain an economy. China has incorporated cyber war in its war fighting strategy. The United States has created its own Cyber Command with its military to develop defenses against cyber attacks and, presumably, develop cyber attack strategies of its own.
Also ones suspects that the United States Cyber Command is watching the Stuxnet attack with interest. News about the effects of the cyber attack on Iran’s computer systems is sketchy, to say the least. But it is likely that every intelligence asset in Iran is being employed to uncover the extent of the cyber attack and the damage that it is causing. Thus the effects of the cyber attack on Iran can be analyzed and the information used to create defenses against such a thing occurring against American and other computer systems.
It is unlikely that the cyber attack has permanently crippled Iran’s computer systems, including the ones controlling the nuclear power plant. But it has at least bought Israel and the world time, delaying the onset of an Iranian nuclear arsenal, so that a more permanent solution can be developed and executed.
Source: Cyber War on Iran: the Siemens Connection, Roger Simon, Pajamas Media, September 25th, 2010