Monday, September 27, 2010

Was Stuxnet used earlier in Israel's 2007 attack on a reactor in Syria?

Syrian reactor under construction before it was hit in an Israeli air attack (the picture was published by US media after the attack)  

The Stuxnet worm that is directed at industrial facilities is still making headlines. First Iran admitted that it's  nuclear agency is trying to combat the computer worm and that it had affected industrial sites throughout the country. Experts believe that there could have been a connection with a mysterious incident at the uranium enrichment facility at Natanz. Also it seems that Natanz is only working at 60% of its capacity. Experts from the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran met this week to discuss how to remove the malicious computer code, or worm, the semi-official Isna news agency reported on Friday.

Stuxnet  can take over systems that control the inner workings of industrial plants, but no damage or disruption of nuclear facilities has yet been reported. The worm was discovered in July by a firm in Belarus that works with Iranian firms. It has since shown up in a number of attacks - primarily in Iran, Indonesia, India and the US. Isna said the malware had spread throughout Iran, but did not name specific sites affected.

In its report about the worm the New York Times revealed a very interesting sideline. The paper recalled the 2007 Israeli Air Force attack on what was suspected of being a Syrian nuclear reactor under construction.
Accounts of the event initially indicated that sophisticated jamming technology had been used to blind the radar so Israeli aircraft went unnoticed. Last December, however, a report in an American technical publication, IEEE Spectrum, cited a European industry source as raising the possibility that the Israelis had used a built-in kill switch to shut down the radar.
A former member of the United States intelligence community said that the attack had been the work of Israel’s equivalent of America’s National Security Agency, known as Unit 8200.
But if the attack was based on a worm or a virus, there was never a smoking gun like Stuxnet, the paper wrote, by which it meant to say that one might wonder why Stuxnet appeared at so many places when only a few targets were meant to be attacked..Which either indicates that the attack was carried out more sloppily than one would have expected of a  government agency, or just in such a hurry that it was impossible to avoid these side effects.

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