Could a Rogue Computer Virus be Used to Shut Down Nuclear Plants Worldwide?

 

It is now common knowledge that the U.S. and Israel developed the Stuxnet computer virus in order to slow down Iran’s nuclear program.

As the New York Times noted in January:

Over the past two years, according to intelligence and military experts familiar with its operations, Dimona has taken on a new, equally secret role — as a critical testing ground in a joint American and Israeli effort to undermine Iran’s efforts to make a bomb of its own.

Behind Dimona’s barbed wire, the experts say, Israel has spun nuclear centrifuges virtually identical to Iran’s at Natanz, where Iranian scientists are struggling to enrich uranium. They say Dimona tested the effectiveness of the Stuxnet computer worm, a destructive program that appears to have wiped out roughly a fifth of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges and helped delay, though not destroy, Tehran’s ability to make its first nuclear arms.

“To check out the worm, you have to know the machines,” said an American expert on nuclear intelligence. “The reason the worm has been effective is that the Israelis tried it out.”

Though American and Israeli officials refuse to talk publicly about what goes on at Dimona, the operations there, as well as related efforts in the United States, are among the newest and strongest clues suggesting that the virus was designed as an American-Israeli project to sabotage the Iranian program.

***

Officially, neither American nor Israeli officials will even utter the name of the malicious computer program, much less describe any role in designing it.

But Israeli officials grin widely when asked about its effects. Mr. Obama’s chief strategist for combating weapons of mass destruction, Gary Samore, sidestepped a Stuxnet question at a recent conference about Iran, but added with a smile: “I’m glad to hear they are having troubles with their centrifuge machines, and the U.S. and its allies are doing everything we can to make it more complicated.”

***

By the accounts of a number of computer scientists, nuclear enrichment experts and former officials, the covert race to create Stuxnet was a joint project between the Americans and the Israelis, with some help, knowing or unknowing, from the Germans and the British.

And the Telegraph noted last month:

A showreel played at a retirement party for the head of the Israeli Defence Forces has strengthened claims the country’s security forces were responsible for a cyber attack on the Iranian nuclear programme.

The video of Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi’s operational successes included references to Stuxnet, a computer virus that disrupted the Natanz nuclear enrichment site last year, Ha’aretz reported.

Although Israel has not officially accepted responsibility for the Stuxnet attack, evidence of its role has been mounting since it was first discovered last July.

***

Attributing the source of cyber attacks in notoriously difficult, but security researchers say factors including complexity of the operation, which would have required human sources inside the Iranian nuclear programme, point strongly to the Israeli security forces.

As PC World pointed out last November,

The sophisticated Stuxnet is a “game changer” for companies and governments looking to protect their networks, said Sean McGurk, acting director of the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

***

As of last week, there were still about 44,000 computers infected with Stuxnet worldwide, with about 60 percent of them in Iran, said Dean Turner, director of Symantec’s Global Intelligence Network. About 1,600 of the current infections are in the U.S., he said.

***

“Stuxnet demonstrates that industrial control systems are more vulnerable to cyberattacks than in the past for several reasons, including their increased connectivity to other systems and the Internet,” he said. “Further, as demonstrated by past attacks and incidents involving industrial control systems, the impact on a critical infrastructure could be substantial.”

Indeed, one of the computer experts quoted by the New York Times, German cyber-security expert Ralph Langner, noted in a Ted talk last month that Stuxnet could be used to attack Western nuclear power plants and other types of automated plants:

As Israel National News writes today:

[Langner] went on to describe the risk that Stuxnet could be used to blow up power plants:

“The idea here is not only to fool the operators in the control room. It actually is much more dangerous and aggressive. The idea here is to circumvent a digital safety system…. when they are compromised, then real bad things can happen. Your plant can blow up and and neither your operators nor your safety system will notice it. That’s scary. But it gets worse – and this is very important, what I am going to say. Think about this: this attack is generic. It doesn’t have anything to do with specifics with centrifuges, with uranium enrichment. So it would work as well, for example in a power plant or in an automobile factory. It is generic. And as an attacker you don’t have to deliver this payload by a USB stick, as we saw it in the case of Stuxnet. You could also use conventional worm technology for spreading. Just spread it as wide as possible. And if you do that, what you end up with is a cyberweapon of mass destruction.”

“That’s the consequence that we have to face,” he said, deliberately, while showing a map that marked Western countries (Israel not included) in green. “So unfortunately, the biggest number of targets for such attacks are not in the Middle East. They are in the United States, in Europe and in Japan. So all the green areas, these are your target-rich environments. We have to face the consequences and we better start to prepare right now.”

***

It seems possible that he thinks Israel could use the worm against Western targets. Why the German consultant thinks Israel would want to do this, one can only speculate.

***

In a correspondence with cyber-security firm Symantec some six months ago, Langner named a “hacker underground” as the possible threat:

“You fail to understand that the hacker underground has been studying control systems for years without any success. You fail to understand that this community will eagerly dismantle Stuxnet as a blueprint for how to cyber-attack installations from the cookie plant next door to power plants.”

***

The New York Times recently reported that the Stuxnet virus could possibly still be infecting Iranian systems and that it may unleash additional havoc on new targets.

Has Stuxnet Already Caused Damage Outside Of Iran?

Since the Japanese earthquake, Michael Rivero has posted hundredsof articles arguing that the Stuxnet virus has “gotten loose” and attacked other nuclear power plants outside of Iran.

The former editor of the Japan Times – Yoichi Shimatsu – writes:

Tepco engineers suggested that the electric power inside the plant was knocked out by something other than the tsunami. I have pointed to this possibility early on, that the quake and control disruptions could have made the control computers vulnerable to the Stuxnet virus.

According to Yomiuri, Stuxnet was in Japan as of October of 2010. However, I find it hard to believe that it was not the massive earthquake and the enormous tsunami which knocked out the power (although I suppose a virus could have exacerbated the damage).

There have been a lot of strange stories about unexplained nuclear power plant shutdowns. For example, as Fox News reported last week:

A nuclear reactor at Plant Vogtle in eastern Georgia has been taken out of service until authorities determine why it unexpectedly shut down.

I have no idea whether or not the shutdowns were caused by Stuxnet accidentally spreading to other reactors, instead of just hitting its intended target: Iran.

But at the very least, the virus created by the U.S. and Israel to slow down Iran’s nuclear program has opened a “Pandora’s box” which leaves our nuclear plants and other sensitive facilities open to attacks by hostile governments or rogue hackers.

Update: See this must-read, and comical, development,

 

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  • Greg Burton

    I. The HAARP/Stuxnet Fukushima disaster, for the Israelis (City of London), will the be the gift, the ultimate distraction, that will keep on giving:

    a. New cybervirus found in Japan / Stuxnet designed to attack off-line servers via USB memory sticks
    http://poorrichards-blog.blogspot.com/2011/03/new-cybervirus-found-in-japan-stuxnet.html

    b. US, Israel ‘behind Stuxnet’ virus: Iran officer
    http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-technology/us-israel-behind-stuxnet-virus-iran-officer-20110416-1dj2v.html

    c. An Israeli firm provided security for the Fukushima Nuclear plant:
    http://kyotoobserver.wordpress.com/2011/03/19/israels-magna-provided-security-at-fukushima-nuke-plant/

    d. The Stuxnet virus would not have to be deliberately insinuated into the secure server at any nuclear plant, which usually would not be available through the Internet:
    http://www.daniweb.com/community-center/geeks-lounge/news/370462/1592873

    e. Six months before the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, Iran and Japan were making plans to building “earthquake proof” nuclear reactors.
    http://english.cri.cn/6966/2010/07/20/1461s583865.htm

    f. Meanwhile, the MSM is completely oblivious to this monumental planetary disaster:
    http://www.rense.com/general60/stun.htm

    g. Fukushima Daiichi and other nuclear disasters/wars have been the subject of several movies in which individuals and organizations have postulated that a nuclear disaster/war is inevitable, perhaps acceptable and even desirable (Fail Safe, Dr Stangelove, The Watchmen).

    II. Some considerations:

    a. It will change the calculus and timeline for “Israel’s demise”, preempting the growing global chorus of Israel critics, many of whom will now be scrambling just to survive:

    Israel To Collapse in 20 Years Says CIA Report?
    http://www.altermedia.info/civil-rights/israel-will-collapse-in-20-years-says-cia-report_877.html

    b. Many Jews, feeling threatened are leaving Israel, but would the world’s Jews return, if that was the only option in an irradiated world?

    Jews flee from Israel? ‘Right papers’ save from danger zone

    Israelis hold ‘march of a million’ protest
    http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2011/09/20119318251210764.html

    c. The HAARP/Stuxnet Fukushima nuclear debacle may very well be the fulfilling of a threat Israel has made against the world:

    Wikipedia: The Samson Option
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samson_Option

    However, an overt “Sampson Option” would only lead to Israel’s annihilation.

    d. It certainly taught the Japanese a lesson that they will not be able to “go it alone” in regards to the NWO, privately controlled central banking cartel. The pending collapse of Ford and GM will now be postponed due to cratering Japanese industrial output. The Japanese culture, over 35,000 years old, now faces annihilation.

    US weapon caused Japan disaster’
    http://www.presstv.ir/detail/173543.html

    e. The growing anti-nuke sentiment arising from the Fukushima, Fort Calhoun, Los Alamos disasters will only work in Israel’s favor, as it continues to hide its burgeoning nuclear arsenal, which now boasts missile defense technology stolen from the US.

    Israeli Spying: The Mother of all Scandals
    http://whatreallyhappened.com/WRHARTICLES/motherofallscandals.php

    f. The coming population crash due to induced environmental and economic factors (Gulf of Mexico oil spill, Fukushima nuclear debacle, food control and hyper-inflation, targeted under-employment) will reverse Israel’s growing demographic marginalization due to the world’s burgeoning population.

    g. A Review of global air mass circulation, vis a vis total available radioactive particles, looks to leave Israeli’s sphere of influence, Asia Minor/central Asia relatively unscathed by the radiation plume now covering the northern hemisphere (US, western Europe):

    Israel, Exxon, and the AEI
    http://www.nemw.net/images/jpg/nwo/pnacplanwo7.jpg

    Due to these environmental disasters, the “livable” world will shrink. As a result, Israel will emerge as the remaining major world power (thanks to US subsidies), as the rest of us are reduced back to the stone age. Israel has built its own system of D.U.M.B.s in the Negev desert. The reduction of nation states to controllable territories, without rule of law is one of the main tenants of the neoconservative philosophy.

    h. Israel’s host and erstwhile ally, the United States, is disintegrating due to the Fukushima disaster, Gulf of Mexico oil spill, corrupt economic policies (toxic mortgage CDOs, credit default swaps, tax-cuts for the rich) pursued in the wake of the so-called 911 attacks (inside job). Israel has no exposure to the toxic mortgage, as has the United States and Europe. For Israel, who looks upon the dominate US Christian theology as anathema to Judaism, a collapsed US would remove an eventual and persistent existential threat. The Japanese financial implosion will accelerate the US financial debacle.

    Celente: we are in a financial 9/11

    i. With the continental US in chaos, it will impossible to support 800 military bases world-wide.

    Robert Gates : Israel Is An Ungrateful Ally
    http://www.veteranstoday.com/2011/09/11/robert-gates-israel-is-an-ungrateful-ally/

    j. Meanwhile, Israel and its “new friend” China will emerge as the new powers in the world.

    Israel-China Relations Growing Deeper
    http://www.bobtuskin.com/2011/07/04/israel-china-relations-growing-deeper/

  • Sam Johnson

 

 

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