Monday, October 4, 2010

Israel hacking Iranian computers? Not a new war tactic.

From the New York Times, two stories about a computer worm that has been directed at Iranian computers involved in Iran’s development of nuclear weapons. Shades of the code breakers of World War II!

From September 29th,

“Deep inside the computer worm that some specialists suspect is aimed at slowing Iran’s race for a nuclear weapon lies what could be a fleeting reference to the Book of Esther, the Old Testament tale in which the Jews preempt a Persian plot to destroy them.
“That use of the word “Myrtus” — which can be read as an allusion to Esther — to name a file inside the code is one of several murky clues that have emerged as computer experts try to trace the origin and purpose of the rogue Stuxnet program, which seeks out a specific kind of command module for industrial equipment. [The Hebrew word hadas which forms the basis of the name Hadassah, commonly used as a substitute for Esther, means myrtle, a kind of plant. Ed.]

So what’s so terrible? Nothing in my book if it the worm serves to slow down, if not derail Iran’s drive for a bomb. As for the Israelis,

“Not surprisingly, the Israelis are not saying whether Stuxnet has any connection to the secretive cyberwar unit it has built inside Israel’s intelligence service. Nor is the Obama administration, which while talking about cyberdefenses has also rapidly ramped up a broad covert program, inherited from the Bush administration, to undermine Iran’s nuclear program. In interviews in several countries, experts in both cyberwar and nuclear enrichment technology say the Stuxnet mystery may never be solved.”
The follow-up story came on October 2nd.

In a good discussion on the roots of cyber warfare, they have to come back to the original thesis that Israel was behind the Stuxnet attack.
“But many military and intelligence analysts, including several with direct knowledge of Israeli intelligence operations, have said it is unlikely that either an Israeli or United States operation would leave such blatant clues. That leaves the possibility that someone wanted to plant evidence pointing incorrectly to Israeli involvement. Most computer security specialists say the authorship of the program may never be discovered.”

Bottom line- Who cares about the Times' take on the root of the worm? What's good about this worm is that it demonstrates it's still good war planning to be screwing with your enemy’s head. The Allies did it in WWII, why not the West now?

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