Posted by Lex, on January 16, 2011
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 attacks were not fully successful: Some parts of Iran’s operations ground to a halt, while others survived, according to the reports of international nuclear inspectors. Nor is it clear the attacks are over: Some experts who have examined the code believe it contains the seeds for yet more versions and assaults.
Many experts are on the record as having said that a virus with Stuxnet’s complexity could only be fashioned with the resources of a nation-state, although this is perhaps wishful thinking. What’s probably not in dispute is that unleashing the virus at this time represents a the first volley in a cyber war campaign.
It’s useful to remember that some targets can shoot back.