By Loring Wirbel
Citizens for Peace in Space, Colorado Springs, Colorado
Lost amid the rash of media reports on the protests engulfing the
Middle East and North Africa was a little February news item noting
that the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran was at risk of a nuclear
meltdown. The predicted danger, it turns out, was not the result of
poor construction or the fault of an ill-trained crew. It was instead
an unintended ‘side effect’ of an attack launched by Israel with the
help of StratCom’s “Cyber Command” to cripple Iran’s nuclear
capabilities with a computer worm—a rogue program similar to a virus.
The so-called “Stuxnet” worm was specifically designed to interrupt
the operation of centrifuges at the Natanz uranium enrichment plant,
but now has been confirmed to have spread to other Iranian nuclear
facilities, including Bushehr.
Given that a major nuclear accident carries the potential to kill
dozens, if not hundreds, of Iranians, it is odd that some people
regard an offensive cyber attack using the Stuxnet worm as a
preferable alternative to an Israeli military air strike on Iranian
nuclear sites. But that’s the funny thing about the U.S.’s alleged
‘defensive’ military capabilities. Time and again—with chemical
weapons, missile defense and now with cyber-warfare, capabilities that
are considered defensive and somewhat benign wind up being used in
very offensive ways. And the end result may not be that much
different than a full-frontal military assault.
Stuxnet was one of the first worms in history designed to attack
computers used in factories, instead of desktop and laptop computers
used by consumers. In fact, Stuxnet’s malicious payload was specific
enough that it only caused harm when it encountered computers built by
Siemens for industrial-process control. Even when Siemens computers
are present, Stuxnet only disrupts operations of certain kinds of
pumps and motors that might be used in a uranium enrichment plant.
One analyst called this a “highly-targeted sniper type of computer
So we shouldn’t expect much collateral damage, right?
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Mark Vasina, President
Nebraskans for Peace
941 'O' Street, Suite 1026 | Lincoln, NE 68508