November 13, 2013
The ISS Not Infected With The Stuxnet Virus
[ Watch the Video: No Stuxnet On The ISS, But It Could Happen ]
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe OnlineA false news report is floating around that the International Space Station (ISS) was infected by the Stuxnet virus. A handful of media outlets have incorrectly reported that the Stuxnet virus, which became famous for sabotaging the Iranian uranium program, has been unleashed on the space station.
The space station has a network of computers that help to run everything from life support systems to scientific experiments. Computer security rock star Eugene Kaspersky discussed the possibility of the orbiting laboratory being infected by the Stuxnet virus at the Press Club in Canberra, Australia on November 8.
Stuxnet is a trojan virus designed to spread through Microsoft Windows networks and can be manually uploaded to isolated critical systems through USB drives. The virus was allegedly created by US and Israeli programmers to attack Iranian nuclear reactors. When the virus was released on Iran, computer security experts said it was the start of a “cyber war” between the nations.
During Kaspersky’s talk, he discussed cyber crime and infrastructure attacks as the key elements of modern online security risks. He said that although there are only two or three a year, attacks on critical infrastructures are the most serious.
Kaspersky said that the malicious Stuxnet virus could be inadvertently infecting an unnamed Russian nuclear reactor. If this was the case, then the virus could spread through Russian networks, and cosmonauts could have carried infected USB devices to the space station. However, a few media reports took his speech as claiming the space station had been infected by Stuxnet, rather than an example of how it could be infected.
The computer scientist did say that there have been a few occasions over the years when computers aboard the space station have been infected by malware, but he never said it was Stuxnet.
“Scientists, from time to time, are coming to space with USBs which are infected. I’m not kidding,” he said in his speech. “I was talking to Russian space guys and they said ‘yes, from time to time there are virus epidemics in the space station.’”
According to Kaspersky, these sophisticated viruses would cost about $10 million to build. He said half of all malware was written in Chinese, but these programmers apparently don't care about their personal security because researchers regularly find personal photos and social network accounts on servers used in attack campaigns. He added that although Russian-coded malware was less prevalent than viruses from other countries, it is the most sophisticated in the world.
Security firm Symantec said in February this year that the Stuxnet virus could date back to as early as 2005. The firm reportedly found early roots of Stuxnet known as Stuxnet 0.5 that could be the earliest versions of the trojan. The US government has never admitted to being behind the Stuxnet attack, but author David E. Sanger says that President Barack Obama ordered the use of the malicious malware on Iran.