January 17, 2011

Israel, US May Be Responsible For Iranian Cyberattack

A computer worm was used by officials in the US and Israel in an attempt to sabotage Iran's attempts to create an atomic bomb, the New York Times first reported on Sunday.

According to an AFP article that followed the original Times story, the New York-based newspaper cited intelligence and military experts as claiming that the virus, known as Stuxnet, successfully shut down one-fifth of Iran's nuclear centrifuges back in November.

The testing reportedly took place at "the heavily guarded Dimona complex in the Negev desert housing the Middle East's sole, albeit undeclared nuclear weapons program," the French news agency said. "Experts and officials told the Times the effort to create Stuxnet was a US-Israeli project with the help, knowingly or not, of Britain and Germany."

The AFP reports that there had previously been speculation that Israel was behind a Stuxnet worm attack that targeted Iranian computers, and officials in the Middle Eastern nation have blamed the Israelis and the Americans for the deaths of two nuclear scientists and November and January.

Tehran officials claim that their uranium enrichment program is seeing strong progress, while US officials have been among those stating that they believed the program has suffered serious setbacks, reporters from the wire service said.

According to Ewen MacAskill of The Guardian, because of the cyberattack, "The chances of a military strike against Iran this year are receding."

"Last year, rumors of military action began to be heard louder round Washington, with diplomats and officials warning that this year would be the year of decision on whether to launch a military strike. But the mood has changed," MacAskill wrote on Sunday, adding that an official told his newspaper "that the military option is now less likely, citing not only the cyberattack, but also the synchronized assassination last year of two Iranian nuclear scientists, attributed to Israel."

Meanwhile, some Russian scientists are expressing concern over the damage Stuxnet may have caused to Iran's nuclear reactors. According to Con Coughlin of the Telegraph, Russian nuclear experts assisting with technical aspects of Iran's program fear that the "extensive damage caused to the plant's computer systems" because of the worm could result in "'another Chernobyl' if they were forced to comply with Iran's tight deadline to activate the complex this summer."

"Russian scientists working at the plant have become so concerned by Iran's apparent disregard for nuclear safety issues that they have lobbied the Kremlin directly to postpone activation until at least the end of the year, so that a proper assessment can be made of the damage caused to its computer operations by Stuxnet," Coughlin added.


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