infoTECH Feature

September 27, 2010

Stuxnet Worm Affects 30,000 Computers in Iran

A powerful computer malware attack on computerized industrial control equipment has affected more than 30,000 IP addresses in Iran since July, according to a recent AFP report.

The worm, known as Stuxnet, was designed to attack Siemens’ (News - Alert) supervisory control and data acquisition systems, which are often utilized to manage water supplies, power plants and other industrial facilities.

Officials with the Iranian government recently said that the worm had infected servers at the Bushehr nuclear power plant, but had not done any major damage.

Even though the worm has not adversely affected the country’s industrial control systems as of yet, the attacks have widespread political implications, especially considering Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Several cyber security professionals have speculated that the malicious code may have been created by a nation-state or a well-financed group of investors, as the worm is too complex to have been developed by a single hacker, according to the Press Association.

“This would not be easy for a normal group to put together,” said Liam Murchu, manager of security response operations at Symantec (News - Alert), a leading computer security company. “It was either a well-funded private entity” or it “was a government agency or state-sponsored project” created by individuals with intimate knowledge of industrial control systems.

US officials have said that there is no proof that the worm was designed to exclusively attack Iranian control systems. However, nearly 60 percent of computers that have been affected by the malware attack are in Iran.

Outside of the political ramifications, the worm also exposes the potential vulnerability of critical infrastructure systems -- which is a global concern.

“The Stuxnet worm is a wake-up call to governments around the world,” Derek Reveron, professor of national security and a cyber expert at the U.S. Naval War School in Rhode Island, told the Globe and Mail. “It is the first known worm to target industrial control systems and grants hackers vital control of vital public infrastructures like power plants, dams and chemical facilities.”

Officials with the Department of Homeland Security said late last week that they are keeping a close eye on the virus and are working to keep it from affecting domestic IP addresses. 

Beecher Tuttle is a Web Editor for TMCnet. He has extensive experience writing and editing for print publications and online news websites. He has specialized in a variety of industries, including health care technology, politics and education. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Tammy Wolf


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