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NY Times: Stuxnet was a US-Israeli effort to disrupt Iran's nuclear program

20 January 2011

The Stuxnet worm was an Israeli-US project developed at the highly secretive Israeli Dimona complex in the Negev desert to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program, according to a report in the New York Times.

US and Israel researchers developed the worm at the facility and tested it on nuclear centrifuges identical to centrifuges at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility that was attacked by Stuxnet, the paper said.

Stuxnet development began in 2008 when Siemens cooperated with the Idaho National Laboratory to identify vulnerabilities in the company’s controllers that operate nuclear centrifuges and other industrial processes. A briefing about the findings was conducted by the Department of Homeland Security for US officials. The implication from the story is that this briefing was used by the Israelis, with US help, to develop the Stuxnet worm at Dimona.

Siemens controllers headed for Iran were detained by the United Arab Emirates in April 2009 at the request of the US State Department, according to WikiLeaks documents cited by the paper. A few months after that, the Stuxnet worm began appearing around the globe. The implication, from the report, is that the Stuxnet worm was loaded onto the controllers while they were detained in the UAE.

The Stuxnet worm has two components. One component attacks the centrifuges and the other records what normal operations look like and plays those readings back to plant operators so that they are unaware of any problems.

Although Iranian official have said the Natanz facility sustained only minor damage, US and Israel officials cited by the newspaper estimate the worm has set back the Iranian nuclear program five years or more. An independent assessment by the Institute for Science and International Security estimated that the worm took out around 1000 centrifuges at Natanz.

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Malware and Hardware Security  •  Public Sector


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