Last week an article in the New York Times reported that US President Obama claimed responsibility for ordering the wave of cyber attacks that have been hitting Iran’s nuclear program. The article goes on to give credit to former President George W. Bush for the initial development of the idea, with Obama continuing the cyber campaign at Bush’s urging.
President Obama secretly ordered increasingly sophisticated attacks on the computer systems that run Iran’s main nuclear enrichment facilities, significantly expanding America’s first sustained use of cyberweapons, according to participants in the program.Mr. Obama decided to accelerate the attacks — begun in the Bush administration and code-named Olympic Games — even after an element of the program accidentally became public in the summer of 2010 because of a programming error that allowed it to escape Iran’s Natanz plant and sent it around the world on the Internet. Computer security experts who began studying the worm, which had been developed by the United States and Israel, gave it a name: Stuxnet.
Due credit is given to Israel further on in the article:
Then the N.S.A. and a secret Israeli unit respected by American intelligence officials for its cyberskills set to work developing the enormously complex computer worm that would become the attacker from within.
The unusually tight collaboration with Israel was driven by two imperatives. Israel’s Unit 8200, a part of its military, had technical expertise that rivaled the N.S.A.’s, and the Israelis had deep intelligence about operations at Natanz that would be vital to making the cyberattack a success. But American officials had another interest, to dissuade the Israelis from carrying out their own pre-emptive strike against the Iranian nuclear facilities. To do that, the Israelis would have to be convinced that the new line of attack was working. The only way to convince them, several officials said in interviews, was to have them deeply involved in every aspect of the program.Soon the two countries had developed a complex worm that the Americans called “the bug.” But the bug needed to be tested.
The New English Reviewhowever takes Obama and the New York Times to task for claiming so much credit. They give the last word to the Mossad (who else?).
John Hudson in The Atlantic Wire blog post, “Israeli Spies Want Credit for Stuxnet”spilled the beans:
Israel’s officials have a message for anyone praising the CIA for its sophisticated cyber attack on Iran: It was our baby. The Stuxnet computer worm, described by David Sanger in The New York Times last week as an invention by the Bush administration, was actually developed by Mossad, according to Israeli officials speaking with Ha’aretz journalist Yossi Melman on condition of anonymity:
The Israeli officials actually told me a different version. They said that it was Israeli intelligence that began, a few years earlier, a cyberspace campaign to damage and slow down Iran’s nuclear intentions. And only later they managed to convince the USA to consider a joint operation — which, at the time, was unheard of.
We tend to side with those unnamed Mossad sources because of something that was revealed about an interesting aspect of the Stuxnet code. Note this Computerworld report circa September 2010 endeavoring to confirm the Israeli origins of the malworm:
In a paper released today and presented at a Vancouver, British Columbia security conference, a trio of Symantec researchers noted that Stuxnet includes references in its code to the 1979 execution of a prominent Jewish Iranian businessman.
Read this article in its entirety too. This too reads like a spy thriller.
The final word should go to Israellycool who has come up with the definitive proof that the virus was Israeli:
(For the Hebraically-challenged among you, the first line “alek” is Hebrew slang for “yeah, right”.
In the line below, the Hebrew words read Ahmadinejad and Khamenei.
“Balagan” is Hebrew slang for “chaos” or “mess”.
In the second part of the “code”, it reads: “tell anti virus “It’s all cool bro, I’m only Solitaire”).
In related cyber news today, the latest cyber-attacker, the Flame virus has been given mysterious orders to vanish.
U.S. computer security researchers said on Sunday that the Flame computer virus, which struck at least 600 specific computer systems in Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Sudan, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority, has gotten orders to vanish, leaving no trace.
AFP reported that anti-virus company Symantec said in a blog post that late last week that some Flame “command-and-control servers sent an updated command to several compromised computers.”
“This command was designed to completely remove (Flame) from the compromised computers,” said the statement.
In this case, AFP reported, it appeared that Flame masters gave an order for the malware to vanish, leaving behind no trail that investigators might be able to follow or clues to its origin.
The self-destruct command was evidently sent after Flame was exposed and investigations commenced.
Ian Fleming could not have made this up.