Cyber Nukes

‘Olympic Games’ Sounds Like the Manhattan Project of Cyber Warfare

Warfare by other means.
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Obama in the Situation Room. (flickr.com/anhonorablegerman)

Gather ’round, readers, it’s Friday and that means it’s time for a cyberwar spy thriller, courtesy of the New York Times. The paper of record has an excerpt of a new book that offers a thorough history of the top-secret origins of the Stuxnet worm, and it is a corker.

So: Stuxnet, rather than a lone experiment, is actually part of a larger program designed to put a stop to Iran’s nuclear work. Dubbed “Olympic Games,” work began under George W. Bush and continued under Barack Obama, in partnership with Israel. President Obama not only signed off on the program, but ramped it up. It wasn’t supposed to escape Iran’s nuclear facilities at Natanz, but escape it did, apparently as the result of some “programming error.”

We’ve seen enough a) virus-infected laptops and b) zombie movies that we could’ve told the president that would happen.

In case you’d like some context:

“Previous cyberattacks had effects limited to other computers,” Michael V. Hayden, the former chief of the C.I.A., said, declining to describe what he knew of these attacks when he was in office. “This is the first attack of a major nature in which a cyberattack was used to effect physical destruction,” rather than just slow another computer, or hack into it to steal data.

Also, for the love of God, people, adopt better security practices. Re: introducing the worm to Natanz: “It turns out there is always an idiot around who doesn’t think much about the thumb drive in their hand.” And you’d better believe the U.S. isn’t immune to these attacks, either:

Mr. Obama has repeatedly told his aides that there are risks to using — and particularly to overusing — the weapon. In fact, no country’s infrastructure is more dependent on computer systems, and thus more vulnerable to attack, than that of the United States. It is only a matter of time, most experts believe, before it becomes the target of the same kind of weapon that the Americans have used, secretly, against Iran.

Quick, someone check on the electric grid.

Follow Kelly Faircloth on Twitter or via RSS. kfaircloth@observer.com