Monday, February 21, 2011

Tech News - Week 14 Feb 2011 - Stuxnet, The Beginning of Cyberwarfare?

Stuxnet, a sophisticated cyber-weapon that terrifies many industrial system managers around the globe. Looking back at June 2010, an Iranian nuclear program was halted by the attack of a worm that infiltrated their systems and targeted electromechanical devices at five different nuclear plants in Iran. The worm was designed to attack systems that use Siemens devices, which control and monitor industrial processes. The worm achieved its goal in disrupting plant activity by pushing motoring devices towards breaking point. Another feature of this worm was its rootkit ability to imbed itself in the operating systems, without being detected. The worm then transmits false readings of the plants activity back to the people who were monitoring the systems. After the incident at the Iranian plants, investigations were ordered into determining how the worm made its way into the systems and who was behind it. Experts that were in charge of the unveiling of the worm's inner parts, said that what had been created here was something far more complex than the average worm spreading the internet today. They had concluded that the code inside the worm was 
developed by two parties, notably two groups that were very funded, on a nation budget level.

So let us have a look at the bigger picture here. We have two countries (allegedly involved, according to The New York Times) teaming up with each other to focus on slowing down the development of nuclear arms of an Islamic nation. Surely this collaboration of espionage against a country, can be deemed as warfare? Israel, said to have a nuclear installation almost identical to that of Iran's nuclear facility, where a joint operation between Israel and America is being conducted. So Israel can be said to have had a mock-up of Iran's facilities... The perfect place to test the operations of a worm, like Stuxnet.

Turning our heads towards more recent matters involving Stuxnet, we discover something quite disturbing. HBGary, a security research company,  had its security breached and a decrypted version of the Stuxnet code was stolen from their databases by AnonymousSecurity advisors saying that the worst is already out there, may just be getting a little bit ahead of themselves with that statement. Note that, Stuxnet is  a military grade worm containing very complex code, which is almost impossible to comprehend. However, there are definitely experts out there who are willing to share their knowledge on pulling apart the Stuxnet worm and determining what its core innards are capable of. It can sound a little bit scary for some, but keeping yourself aware on what security companies are doing to thwart these threats and how you can protect your information on the internet, may become a necessity for the average internet user, not just large corporations.

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