Did Cyber Attack on Iran’s Nuclear Program Launch a New Era of Non-Violent Warfare?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011
(photo: U.S. Air Force)
Unable to attack Iran’s secret, fortified nuclear weapons program with conventional means, Israel and the United States may have turned to a new form of computer warfare to achieve what used to be left to military air strikes.
Experts believe Iran’s nuclear program was setback by the Stuxnet computer worm, which found its way into computers used by Iranian scientists. The cyber attack reportedly destroyed one fifth of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges, used to produce plutonium, causing a delay of several years.
The worm essentially did two things: it sent commands to Iran’s centrifuges to spin continuously, until damaged, while a set of phony messages gave Iranian scientists the impression everything was fine, until it was too late.
Frustrated by the cyber attack, Iran’s government is pushing to get the nuclear plant at Natanz back online by this summer. But Russian scientists who are helping Tehran have warned that the deadline is unreasonable and potentially dangerous.
If operations begin too soon, the Russians warn, Iran could have “another Chernobyl” on its hands, in reference to the nuclear power plant that blew up in the former Soviet Union in April 1986.
Until recently, Stuxnet received little attention in the U.S. media. However, in Israel readers of the Jerusalem Post voted it the number one news story of 2010.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
Israeli Test on Worm Called Crucial in Iran Nuclear Delay (by William J. Broad, John Markoff and David E. Sanger, New York Times)


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