Stuxnet – the Million Dollar Weapon that Fits on a Thumb Drive

Cloud StorageStuxnet may go down in history as one of the most infamous weapons of the 21st century. Certainly, it will go down in the annals of espionage and warfare as one a weapon that changed the course of history. Although this malicious computer program can fit on a thumb drive, it still has the ability to inflict massive damage on any computer system it is exposed to.

Stuxnet first gained its infamy when it was revealed that this worm (a variant of a virus) seriously harmed Iran’s nuclear computer systems. As a result, Iran suffered major setbacks in its nuclear program. Speculation exists this was a virus whose origin was based in the United States and that was first tested in Israel.

A uranium enrichment plant was the main target of this 500-kilobyte computer worm when it struck Iran. There were 14 other industrial sites that were attacked by the virus like program in the Middle Eastern nation. Unlike a virus, a worm does not have to be installed in order to cause mayhem. Rather, the worm replicates on its own and causes massive damage throughout a computer network. Stuxnet was able to do this in Iran for some time before even being detected. Simply connecting a mere USB thumb drive into a computer could lead to the worm infecting the Windows operating system. From this point, it can spread rapidly. Computers do not even have to be connected to the internet in order for the worm to move from one PC to the other.

The new film ‘Crow Hill’ that takes a look at these issues is currently funding at Kickstarter.

A live stream event of Edward Snowden on Monday, March 10 at 11:00 CST addressing SXSW can be viewed here.

Additional Sources:
http://spectrum.ieee.org/telecom/security/the-real-story-of-stuxnet

For years the major concern in military circles centered on the invention and application of “Weapons of Mass Destruction”. Who would be bold enough to create a device so evil that entire cities could be demolished at the push of a button? Once created who would be serious enough to deploy the weapon in the attempt to control the outcome of a war?
That concern may no longer be valid as the world moves faster and further into the age of technology and cyber warfare. The most recent worry is about “Weapons Of Mass Disruption”. The releasing of a computer generated virus onto the internet with specific targets that could wreak havoc on the intended target to the point the military of the country attacked could be effectually unable to respond to any act of aggression.

Stuxnet is such a weapon and is the million dollar weapon that fits on a thumb drive. It is not clear who created and unleashed the Stuxnet virus although the United States and Israel are rumored to have collaborated on the project. The virus attacked the Iranian Nuclear facilities operating system causing the centrifuge to spin out of control while displaying normal operations.

This and other malware like it are designed to do little or no damage to computers other than the specific system that is targeted. They are in effect marksman that single out a target to be eliminated. Stuxnet is a weapon of mass disruption and offers a glimpse of the future.

About the Author

Mark Whysall