The question may no longer be Will Israel attack Iran but Has Israel already attacked Iran?
Experts from the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran met this week to discuss how to remove the malicious computer code, or worm, the semi-official ISNA news agency reported Friday.
The computer worm, dubbed Stuxnet, can take over systems that control the inner workings of industrial plants. Experts in Germany discovered the worm in July, and it has since shown up in a number of attacks — primarily in Iran, Indonesia, India and the U.S.
The ISNA report said the malware had spread throughout Iran, but did not name specific sites affected. Foreign media reports have speculated the worm was aimed at disrupting Iran’s first nuclear power plant, which is to go online in October in the southern port city of Bushehr.
Iranian newspapers have reported on the computer worm hitting industries around the country in recent weeks, without giving details. Friday’s report also did not mention Bushehr.
The Russian-built plant will be internationally supervised, but world powers remain concerned that Iran wants to use its civil nuclear power program as a cover for making weapons.
Iran denies such an aim and says its nuclear work is solely for peaceful purposes.
While there have been no reports of damage or disruption at any Iranian nuclear facilities, Tuesday’s meeting signaled a high level of concern about the worm among Iran’s nuclear officials.
The destructive Stuxnet worm has surprised experts because it is the first one specifically created to take over industrial control systems, rather than just steal or manipulate data.
The United States is also tracking the worm, and the Department of Homeland Security is building specialized teams that can respond quickly to cyber emergencies at industrial facilities across the country.
According to this report, 30,000 computers belonging to industrial units have already been infected by the virus.
This article quotes an expert who thinks the virus is a weapon designed to destroy Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant.
A geographical distribution of computers hit by Stuxnet, which Microsoft produced in July, found Iran to be the apparent epicenter of the Stuxnet infections. That suggests that any enemy of Iran with advanced cyber war capability might be involved, Langner says. The US is acknowledged to have that ability, and Israel is also reported to have a formidable offensive cyber-war-fighting capability.
Could Stuxnet’s target be Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant, a facility much of the world condemns as a nuclear weapons threat?
Langner is quick to note that his views on Stuxnet’s target is speculation based on suggestive threads he has seen in the media. Still, he suspects that the Bushehr plant may already have been wrecked by Stuxnet. Bushehr’s expected startup in late August has been delayed, he notes, for unknown reasons. (One Iranian official blamed the delay on hot weather.)
But if Stuxnet is so targeted, why did it spread to all those countries? Stuxnet might have been spread by the USB memory sticks used by a Russian contractor while building the Bushehr nuclear plant, Langner offers. The same contractor has jobs in several countries where the attackware has been uncovered.
“This will all eventually come out and Stuxnet’s target will be known,” Langner says. “If Bushehr wasn’t the target and it starts up in a few months, well, I was wrong. But somewhere out there, Stuxnet has found its target. We can be fairly certain of that.”
And here is another expert who believes it is more likely Israel is behind it than the US.
While there seems to be much speculation regarding who is behind this, what seems promising is the “this” seems to have occurred.
And that can only be good news for Israel and the rest of the free world. At least for now.