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‘Stuxnet, An Israeli Cyber War Tactic’ – OpEd

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Israel’s use of the highly sophisticated computer virus Stuxnet to cripple Iran’s nuclear program signifies the beginning of Tel Aviv’s cyber war on Tehran.

A report published recently in the German weekly Der Spiegel refers to the Israeli spy agency Mossad’s ‘attack on Iran’s nuclear program with Stuxnet being the first digital weapon of geopolitical importance as it could change the way wars are fought — and it will not be the last attack of its kind.’

Stuxnet, first indentified by Iranian officials in June 2010, is a malware designed to infect computers using Siemens supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) — a control system favored by industries that manage water supplies, oil rigs, and power plants.

In July last year, media reports claimed that Stuxnet had targeted industrial computers around the globe, with Iran being the main target of the attack. They said the country’s Bushehr nuclear power plant was at the center of the cyber attack.

However, Iranian experts detected the worm in time, averting any damage to the country’s industrial sites and resources.

According to the recent Der Spiegel article, a site on a hill near an interchange on the highway from Tel Aviv to Haifa is known in Israel simply as ‘The Hill,’ which is as big as several soccer fields and is sealed off from the outside world with high walls and barbed wire — a modern fortress that symbolizes Israel’s fight for survival in the Middle East.

As the headquarters of Israel’s spy agency, the fortress is strictly off-limits to politicians and journalists alike. Ordinarily, it is the Mossad that makes house calls, and not the other way around.

The report says that Meir Dagan, the former head of Mossad, had told journalists in January how Mossad has been seeking to cripple Iran’s nuclear program.

He spoke about the risks of a possible military strike against Iran, saying that he believed that such an attack would lead to a conflagration in the region that would include a war with Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Hamas, and possibly with Syria.

The then Mossad chief was reportedly against a war, but in favor of anything that could derail Iran’s nuclear program.

The ex-Mossad head hinted at a weapon, which he did not mention by name: Stuxnet.

The virus represents a fundamentally new addition to the arsenal of modern warfare. It enables a military attack using a computer program tailored to a specific target, the report adds.

“Stuxnet is the most sophisticated attack we have ever seen. This sort of an attack, on a mature, isolated industrial system is completely unusual.” He projects a map onto the wall, showing the countries where such an attack has taken place: Iran, Indonesia, Malaysia and Belarus,” says Sam Angel, the head of Symantec Israel in the report.

When engineers got to work, they came across two computers that had directed the attacks. One of the servers was in Malaysia and the other was in Denmark, and they were reachable through the addresses todaysfutbol.com and mypremierfutbol. They had been registered, under a false name and with a forged credit card, through one of the world’s largest Internet registration companies, a firm based in the US state of Arizona, the report goes on to say.

Computer engineers found out that Stuxnet had infected about 100,000 computers worldwide, including computers in Iran, Indonesia and India.

According to Der Spiegel, it is widely believed that Americans may have helped the Mossad as there is a US government research institution in Idaho where scientists study the Siemens control technology used in Iran. The basic research for Stuxnet could have taken place there and the virus could have been tested at Israel’s nuclear research center near Dimona in the Negev Desert later.

Stuxnet is programmed to delete itself from the USB flash drive after the third infection, presumably to prevent it from spreading explosively, which would have been noticed immediately. The goal of the cyber-weapon is to sabotage its targets in a sustainable, rather than spectacular, manner.

The multi-million dollar malware has fundamentally changed the digital attacks. The US government recently issued a new cyber war doctrine that defines a cyber-attack as a conventional act of war, Der Spiegel says.

According to the report, last year the British government adopted a new security strategy, for which it approved funding of 650 million pounds (€565 million or $1,070 million). The cyber world will become “more important in the conflict between nations,” Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor said in a speech in al-Quds (Jerusalem) in February. “It is a new battleground, if you like, not with guns but with something else.”

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Press TV

Press TV is a 24-hour English language global news network owned by Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB). Its headquarters are located in Tehran, Iran. Press TV carries news analysis, documentary talk shows and sports news worldwide with special focus on West Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East.

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