who created stuxnet
Stuxnet is a computer worm, reportedly developed and launched by the United States and Israel, that specifically targets programmable logic controllers (PLCs) that control the automation of electromechanical processes, such as those used for centrifuges. 1988 Khan. With good reason. Development started in 2005 and took till 2007 before it was launched. It's inevitable that we'll see more in the future. One observation is that it may be harder to destroy centrifuges by use of cyber attacks than often believed. Alex Gibney's 2016 documentary Zero Days covers the phenomenon around Stuxnet. " "We had anticipated that we could root out the virus within one to two months, but the virus is not stable, and since we started the cleanup process three new versions of it have been spreading", he told the Islamic Republic News Agency on 27 September 2010. The 4 pillars of Windows network security, Avoiding the snags and snares in data breach reporting: What CISOs need to know, Why CISOs must be students of the business, The 10 most powerful cybersecurity companies.  According to The Daily Telegraph, a showreel that was played at a retirement party for the head of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Gabi Ashkenazi, included references to Stuxnet as one of his operational successes as the IDF chief of staff.  In January 2010, another Iranian nuclear scientist, a physics professor at Tehran University, was killed in a similar bomb explosion. It's not something that can be put back. While the individual engineers behind Stuxnet haven't been identified, we know that they were very skilled, and that there were a lot of them. The worm then propagates across the network, scanning for Siemens Step7 software on computers controlling a PLC. Stuxnet Worm Aided Iranian Nuclear Program, Researcher Says. "It was very exciting that we’d made this breakthrough," he added. The U.S. and Israeli governments intended Stuxnet as a tool to derail, or at least delay, the Iranian program to develop nuclear weapons. The facility was air-gapped and not connected to the internet.  The program operates a specialized computer emergency response team called the Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT), conducts a biannual conference (ICSJWG), provides training, publishes recommended practices, and provides a self-assessment tool.  Stuxnet is unusually large at half a megabyte in size, and written in several different programming languages (including C and C++) which is also irregular for malware. Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc. What Stuxnet looks for is a particular model of Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) made by Siemens (the press often refers to these as SCADA systems, which is … The malware targeted a power plant and some other industries in Hormozgan province in recent months. This computer worm is designed to transfer data about production lines from our industrial plants to locations outside Iran. Moreover, it demonstrated how it is possible to: Infect an air-gapped system , In a March 2012 interview with 60 Minutes, retired US Air Force General Michael Hayden – who served as director of both the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency – while denying knowledge of who created Stuxnet said that he believed it had been "a good idea" but that it carried a downside in that it had legitimized the use of sophisticated cyber weapons designed to cause physical damage.  Yossi Melman, who covers intelligence for Israeli newspaper Haaretz and wrote a book about Israeli intelligence, also suspected that Israel was involved, noting that Meir Dagan, the former (up until 2011) head of the national intelligence agency Mossad, had his term extended in 2009 because he was said to be involved in important projects. Twenty-seven days later, the worm went back into action, slowing the infected centrifuges down to a few hundred hertz for a full 50 minutes. The pioneering Stuxnet virus that attacked Iran was built just as many security experts had predicted: In a joint effort by the governments of the United States and Israel. Fereydoon Abbasi, a high-ranking official at the Ministry of Defense was seriously wounded.  On the other hand, researchers at Symantec have uncovered a version of the Stuxnet computer virus that was used to attack Iran's nuclear program in November 2007, being developed as early as 2005, when Iran was still setting up its uranium enrichment facility. Stuxnet is a malicious computer worm believed to be a jointly built American-Israeli cyber weapon. New York Times, 4 September 2019 (updated 6 September 2019), Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team, Satellite Imagery of the Natanz Enrichment Facility, Institute for Science and International Security, Budapest University of Technology and Economics, Vulnerability of nuclear plants to attack, "Confirmed: US and Israel created Stuxnet, lost control of it", "Stuxnet was work of U.S. and Israeli experts, officials say", "The Secret History of the Push to Strike Iran Hawks in Israel and America Have Spent More than a Decade Agitating for War Against the Islamic Republic’s Nuclear Program. It uses multiple zero-day vulnerabilities. It doesn’t spread indiscriminately. As part of that program, malware was developed to first create a blueprint of an Iranian nuclear facility at Natanz. The study indicated that Iran's centrifuges appeared to be performing 60% better than in the previous year, which would significantly reduce Tehran's time to produce bomb-grade uranium. The Stuxnet virus that decimated Iranian nuclear facilities was created by the NSA and co-written by Israel, Edward Snowden has confirmed. He later plead guilty for lying to FBI agents pursuing an investigation into the leak. Why did you decide nevertheless to delve into it? , According to a report by Reuters, the NSA also tried to sabotage North Korea's nuclear program using a version of Stuxnet. , Ralph Langner, the researcher who identified that Stuxnet infected PLCs, first speculated publicly in September 2010 that the malware was of Israeli origin, and that it targeted Iranian nuclear facilities.  In the United Kingdom on 25 November 2010, Sky News reported that it had received information from an anonymous source at an unidentified IT security organization that Stuxnet, or a variation of the worm, had been traded on the black market. Characterized as “weaponized software” by security experts, Stuxnet exploited four separate vulnerabilities in the Windows operating system to achieve administrator-level control over specialized industrial networks created by Siemens AG. On 28 December 2011, Kaspersky Lab's director of global research and analysis spoke to Reuters about recent research results showing that the platform Stuxnet and Duqu both originated in 2007, and is being referred to as Tilded due to the ~d at the beginning of the file names. It is not clear whether this attack attempt was successful, but it being followed by a different, simpler and more conventional attack is indicative. also all[improper synthesis?] Wired speculated that the assassinations could indicate that whoever was behind Stuxnet felt that it was not sufficient to stop the nuclear program. Subscribe to access expert insight on business technology - in an ad-free environment. There were questions whether Stuxnet was an ultimate project of that cyber attack program, or it was created as alternative to a physical attack. Stuxnet is considered to be the first known cyberweapon. , Some have also cited several clues in the code such as a concealed reference to the word MYRTUS, believed to refer to the Myrtle tree, or Hadassah in Hebrew. It is initially spread using infected removable drives such as USB flash drives, which contain Windows shortcut files to initiate executable code. (The code for one driver, a very small part of the overall package, has been reconstructed via reverse engineering, but that's not the same as having the original code.). Hayden said, "There are those out there who can take a look at this... and maybe even attempt to turn it to their own purposes". ", In May 2011, the PBS program Need To Know cited a statement by Gary Samore, White House Coordinator for Arms Control and Weapons of Mass Destruction, in which he said, "we're glad they [the Iranians] are having trouble with their centrifuge machine and that we – the US and its allies – are doing everything we can to make sure that we complicate matters for them," offering "winking acknowledgement" of US involvement in Stuxnet. Zero Days includes interviews with O'Murchu and some of his colleagues, and is available in full on YouTube. Rejected Aid for Israeli Raid on Iranian Nuclear Site", "Cyberwar Issues Likely to Be Addressed Only After a Catastrophe", "Cone of silence surrounds U.S. cyberwarfare", "Stuxnet: Computer worm opens new era of warfare", "Iran blames U.S., Israel for Stuxnet malware", "Stuxnet worm mystery: What's the cyber weapon after? What is Stuxnet? In this way, the malware is able to install itself on PLC devices unnoticed, and subsequently to mask its presence from WinCC if the control software attempts to read an infected block of memory from the PLC system. Other experts believe that a US-Israel cooperation is unlikely because "the level of trust between the two countries' intelligence and military establishments is not high. The basic premise that all of these documents share is that prevention requires a multi-layered approach, often termed defense in depth. In early commentary, The Economist pointed out that Stuxnet was "a new kind of cyber-attack. Stuxnet is the first real malicious computer worm launched in industry, first discovered in June 2010 by the security company VirusBlokAda. So a tool like Stuxnet is Israel's obvious weapon of choice. By attacking these supervisory control and data acquisition… " F-Secure's chief researcher Mikko Hyppönen, when asked if possible nation-state support was involved, agreed "That's what it would look like, yes.  The original name given by VirusBlokAda was "Rootkit.Tmphider;" Symantec however called it "W32.Temphid," later changing to "W32.Stuxnet. , According to expert Eugene Kaspersky, the worm also infected a nuclear power plant in Russia. “Stuxnet is a working and fearsome prototype of a cyber-weapon that will lead to the creation of a new arms race in the world,” Kaspersky Labs said in a statement. , Given the growth in Iranian enrichment ability in 2010, the country may have intentionally put out misinformation to cause Stuxnet's creators to believe that the worm was more successful in disabling the Iranian nuclear program than it actually was. The truth behind who created the Stuxnet worm is currently obscured.  Targeting industrial control systems, the worm infected over 200,000 computers and caused 1,000 machines to physically degrade. In July 2008, INL and Siemens publicly announced flaws in the control system at a Chicago conference; Stuxnet exploited these holes in 2009. The classified program to develop the worm was given the code name "Operation Olympic Games"; it was begun under President … Stuxnet is a malicious computer worm, first uncovered in 2010, thought to have been in development since at least 2005. The Stuxnet worm is a "groundbreaking" piece of malware so devious in its use of unpatched vulnerabilities, so sophisticated in its multipronged approach, that the security researchers who tore it apart believe it may be the work of state-backed professionals. Stuxnet remains to be a mystery to many security researchers in the sense that they speculated it was created by a government hinting at digital warfare. " Iran uses P-1 centrifuges at Natanz, the design for which A. Q. Khan stole in 1976 and took to Pakistan. , On 29 November 2010, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stated for the first time that a computer virus had caused problems with the controller handling the centrifuges at its Natanz facilities. Since 2010, there has been extensive international media coverage on Stuxnet and its aftermath. It is believed to have been created by the U.S. and Israel in order to attack and slow down Iran’s nuclear program. " On 8 July 2011, Wired then published an article detailing how network security experts were able to decipher the origins of Stuxnet. Speaking of the Stuxnet creators, he said, "They opened the box. For its targets, Stuxnet contains, among other things, code for a man-in-the-middle attack that fakes industrial process control sensor signals so an infected system does not shut down due to detected abnormal behavior. But if the goal was to destroy a more limited number of centrifuges and set back Iran’s progress in operating the FEP, while making detection difficult, it may have succeeded, at least temporarily. The Stuxnet drivers were signed with genuine digital certificates from respected companies. The worm consists of a layered attack against three different systems: Stuxnet attacked Windows systems using an unprecedented four zero-day attacks (plus the CPLINK vulnerability and a vulnerability used by the Conficker worm). Unlike most malware, Stuxnet does little harm to computers and networks that do not meet specific configuration requirements. On 25 December 2012, an Iranian semi-official news agency announced there was a cyberattack by Stuxnet, this time on the industries in the southern area of the country. ", "Stuxnet-Virus könnte tausend Uran-Zentrifugen zerstört haben", "Mossad's Miracle Weapon: Stuxnet Virus Opens New Era of Cyber War", Iran's Natanz nuclear facility recovered quickly from Stuxnet cyberattack, "Stuxnet Malware and Natanz: Update of ISIS December 22, 2010 Report", "Signs of sabotage in Tehran's nuclear programme", "Wary of naked force, Israel eyes cyberwar on Iran", "Stuxnet worm rampaging through Iran: IT official", "IRAN: Speculation on Israeli involvement in malware computer attack", "Iran struggling to contain 'foreign-made' 'Stuxnet' computer virus", "Stuxnet: Ahmadinejad admits cyberweapon hit Iran nuclear program", "Iran: Computer Malware Sabotaged Uranium Centrifuges | Threat Level", "US Denies Role in Iranian Scientist's Death", "New FAS Report Demonstrates Iran Improved Enrichment in 2010", "Report: Iran's nuclear capacity unharmed, contrary to U.S. assessment", "Report: Report: Iran's Nuclear Program Going Full Speed Ahead", "Experts say Iran has "neutralized" Stuxnet virus", "Stuxnet worm heralds new era of global cyberwar", "Falkenrath Says Stuxnet Virus May Have Origin in Israel: Video. Eric Byres, who has years of experience maintaining and troubleshooting Siemens systems, told Wired that writing the code would have taken many man-months, if not man-years. Next, the machine infiltrated the Windows-based Siemens Step7 software.  On 17 January 2017, he was granted a full pardon in this case by President Obama, thus expunging his conviction. "But then we realized what we had got ourselves into — probably an international espionage operation — and that was quite scary." , Sandro Gaycken from the Free University Berlin argued that the attack on Iran was a ruse to distract from Stuxnet's real purpose. – discuss]. The origins of the cyberweapon, which outside analysts dubbed Stuxnet after it was inadvertently discovered in 2010, have long been debated, with most experts concluding that … The worm then alters the PLCs' programming, resulting in the centrifuges being spun too quickly and for too long, damaging or destroying the delicate equipment in the process. , The worm initially spreads indiscriminately, but includes a highly specialized malware payload that is designed to target only Siemens supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems that are configured to control and monitor specific industrial processes.  Stuxnet installs malware into memory block DB890 of the PLC that monitors the Profibus messaging bus of the system. " While the worm is promiscuous, it makes itself inert if Siemens software is not found on infected computers, and contains safeguards to prevent each infected computer from spreading the worm to more than three others, and to erase itself on 24 June 2012.. , If the country targeted with such a cybersecurity attack were India or Pakistan, the resulting nuclear war would likely produce a nuclear autumn during which roughly a quarter of humanity, most of whom were not directly impacted by nuclear explosions, could starve to death if they did not die of something else sooner. One line of code which serves as an inoculation value – a safety device to prevent STUXNET from infecting its creator’s computer – appears to refer to May 9, 1979, the date prominent Jewish-Iranian businessman Habib Ehghanian was executed by firing squad in Tehran. Regardless of who created Stuxnet, it's clear that Iran intends to fire its own shots in the cyberwar. Stuxnet 1.10 attacked Siemens PLC equipment that ran the Natanz plant's centrifuges. ", On the same day two Iranian nuclear scientists were targeted in separate, but nearly simultaneous car bomb attacks near Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran.  In 2019 it was reported that an Iranian mole working for the Dutch intelligence at the behest of Israel and the CIA inserted the Stuxnet virus with a USB flash drive or convinced another person working at the Natanz facility to do so. Despite speculation that incorrect removal of the worm could cause damage, Siemens reports that in the first four months since discovery, the malware was successfully removed from the systems of 22 customers without any adverse effects.. Will Trump Finally Deliver? The worm, having infiltrated these machines, began to continually replicate itself.  Such data is not conclusive, since, as noted by Symantec, "...attackers would have the natural desire to implicate another party". Symantec released this information in September of 2010; analysts in the west had known since the end of 2009 that the Iranians had been having problems with their centrifuges, but only know understood why. 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The collaboration was dubbed 'GOSSIP GIRL' after a threat group leaked from classified CSE slides that included Flame. In June 2012 The New York Times revealed that the program used to sabotage the computer systems at Iran’s nuclear facilities was developed by the United States with the help of Israeli intelligence.  Frank Rieger stated that three European countries' intelligence agencies agreed that Stuxnet was a joint United States-Israel effort. Both of these domain names have subsequently been redirected by their DNS service provider to Dynadot as part of a global effort to disable the malware. , In 2019, Chronicle researchers Juan Andres Guerrero-Saade and Silas Cutler presented evidence of at least four distinct threat actor malware platforms collaborating to create the different versions of Stuxnet.  That same Wired article suggested the Iranian government could have been behind the assassinations. Like with many a hot news story that makes the headlines, Stuxnet received its fair share of mis-reporting… Oh yes! [ Download the State of Cybercrime 2017 report and bookmark CSO's daily dashboard for the latest advisories and headlines. This notion was thought of because of the fact that Stuxnet went after industrial systems demonstrating what a broken government organization would do. A diplomatic cable obtained by WikiLeaks showed how the United States was advised to target Iran's nuclear abilities through 'covert sabotage'. The original Stuxnet malware attack targeted the programmable logic controllers (PLCs) used to automate machine processes.  On 15 July 2010, the day the worm's existence became widely known, a distributed denial-of-service attack was made on the servers for two leading mailing lists on industrial-systems security. So where does Stuxnet come into it? , The worm worked by first causing an infected Iranian IR-1 centrifuge to increase from its normal operating speed of 1,064 hertz to 1,410 hertz for 15 minutes before returning to its normal frequency. , The fact that John Bumgarner, a former intelligence officer and member of the United States Cyber-Consequences Unit (US-CCU), published an article prior to Stuxnet being discovered or deciphered, that outlined a strategic cyber strike on centrifuges and suggests that cyber attacks are permissible against nation states which are operating uranium enrichment programs that violate international treaties gives some credibility to these claims. Two websites in Denmark and Malaysia were configured as command and control servers for the malware, allowing it to be updated, and for industrial espionage to be conducted by uploading information. It only attacks those PLC systems with variable-frequency drives from two specific vendors: Vacon based in Finland and Fararo Paya based in Iran. That meant that it had to be infected via USB sticks transported inside by intelligence agents or unwilling dupes, but also meant the infection should have been easy to contain. And while you can find lots of websites that claim to have the Stuxnet code available to download, O'Murchu says you shouldn't believe them: he emphasized to CSO that the original source code for the worm, as written by coders working for U.S. and Israeli intelligence, hasn't been released or leaked and can't be extracted from the binaries that are loose in the wild. Stuxnet was the first publicly known instance in which a cyber operation caused physical damage outside of a controlled testing environment. While neither government has ever officially acknowledged developing Stuxnet, a 2011 video created to celebrate the retirement of Israeli Defense Forces head Gabi Ashkenazi listed Stuxnet as one of the successes under his watch.  The Windows component of the malware is promiscuous in that it spreads relatively quickly and indiscriminately.. According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, in September 2010 experts on Iran and computer security specialists were increasingly convinced that Stuxnet was meant "to sabotage the uranium enrichment facility at Natanz – where the centrifuge operational capacity had dropped over the past year by 30 percent. Although nobody knows who created Stuxnet, many believe that it opened a new chapter in the annals of cybersecurity: the first worm written to destroy factory control systems. Stuxnet was a 500-kilobyte computer worm that infiltrated numerous computer systems. This week it has been confirmed that the computer virus known as Stuxnet which spread accidentally across the global internet in 2010 was created … An exploit directed at a zero-day is called a zero-day exploit, or zero-day attack.. Confirmed: US and Israel created Stuxnet, lost control of it Stuxnet was never meant to propagate in the wild. It doesn’t herd infected computers into a botnet. The exfiltrated data may be used to enable a future Stuxnet-like attack. This attack, from an unknown source but likely related to Stuxnet, disabled one of the lists, thereby interrupting an important source of information for power plants and factories. It generated a flurry of media attention after it was discovered in 2010 because it was the first known virus to be capable of crippling hardware and because it appeared to have been created by the U.S. National Security Agency, the CIA, and Israeli intelligence. After months of waiting for the information to be relayed, the National Security (NSA) and Israeli computer experts created a worm (Stuxnet) that would allow them to attack from within the plant. , Different variants of Stuxnet targeted five Iranian organizations, with the probable target widely suspected to be uranium enrichment infrastructure in Iran; Symantec noted in August 2010 that 60% of the infected computers worldwide were in Iran. Published on 09.07.2013. The FAS report was reviewed by an official with the IAEA who affirmed the study. Operations at Israel’s Dimona complex are among the strongest clues that the Stuxnet computer worm was an American-Israeli project to sabotage the Iranian nuclear program. , Israel, through Unit 8200, has been speculated to be the country behind Stuxnet in many media reports and by experts such as Richard A. Falkenrath, former Senior Director for Policy and Plans within the US Office of Homeland Security. 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