Saturday, January 1, 2011

Did the Stuxnet worm inadvertently prevent a bloody war between Israel and Iran?

Theories are rife on the subject, but one thing is pretty clear that whoever designed and produced the infamous Stuxnet worm may have prevented, or in the least, have postponed a terrible bloody war between Israel and Iran. For close to two years Jerusalem has been issuing warnings as well as threats about Tehran’s nuclear ambitions with growing intensity as talks between the western nations and Iran proved fruitless one after another, with Tehran refusing to heed the warnings and even threats of sanctions and continuously resorting to delaying tactics and diversions that eventually brought naught to the table. The west following their offer of carrots, attempted to wave the sanctions stick at Iran by stepping up their efforts to marginalize Iran with each passing UN resolution and corner the regime officials. It is a different matter that even this move proved to be porous, with Russia and China refusing to play ball until they were given more leniency in dealing with Tehran in terms of trade. But I digress.

Stuxnet was hailed as one of the most sophisticated worms or spyware ever designed which targets certain specific software and its related hardware equipment. Notably, in Iran’s case, its nuclear centrifuges. Reports show an array of A-26 centrifuges, in the Natanz plant, that were installed by 2008 were the ones that were affected by the worm and within a year, nearly half of these centrifuges were rendered useless and stopped functioning. A few months later, another large batch of the centrifuges broke down, which eventually ground the process to a near halt or severely cut into the process.

What is more curios is after this, the then Israeli deputy director of Atomic Energy Commission, Levite, remarked their efforts have caused a significant delay in Iran’s nuclear project. A statement that many believe is directly pointing at the Stuxnet worm introduction. Israel’s resources in terms of software engineering and programming is well known and is believed to be quite extensive. So much that Microsoft estimates the creation of the worm may have taken in excess of 10,000 man hours by expert level software programmers. Another interesting fact is the worm is designed in a way that it would self-destruct eventually after a specific period and it has to be introduced into the system only within that particular time frame for it to become active and do its damage. Most probably the method of introduction to the system was an infected USB or portable drive.

This worm is now spoken as the herald to a more technologically evolved and sophisticated warfare where the battle lines happen to be very different from what we are familiar with. The frontline could well be the technology that drives our society and industry. And the impact of such weaponry is on par with use of multitude of cruise missiles and more. An alternative to a more barbaric waging of war by firing missiles and aerial bombardments, but with as devastating results to the targeted population. It is indeed not beyond truth to believe this worm did what Israel has been vowing to do by inflicting great damage on Iran’s nuclear project, but without firing of a single bullet.

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