The Stuxnet Virus: “60 Minutes” To Dive Right In

Stuxnet, the virus that could break an empire. It was two years ago that a team in Belarus was first able to detect the Stuxnet Virus. Its legacy will be felt for generations to come. The Virus is said to have possibly set Iran’s nuclear program up to 2 years.

It is pure fascination that causes the legacy of the Stuxnet virus to live on. It is by far the most powerful form of cyberwarfare we have seen yet, even though no one has actually taken any credit for it (most people think it was the United States, Israel or both).

The American media has only had a small glimpse into the power of this awesome computer virus and the American people remain largely in the dark about its effect. Sunday night, CBS’s “60 Minutes” will attempt to explain the Stuxnet virus and explain cyberwarfare to all.

The background of Stuxnet is that it is a sophisticated computer worm that probably took months to write and millions of dollars in programing language. This cost does not include the cost of the intelligence agencies who had to gather the information about the hardware Stuxnet was going to affect.

It used a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows and by exploiting it, the virus was able to burrow itself into specialized industrial computers called programmable logic controllers, made by the German industrial company Siemens. These PLCs sit between conventional computers and industrial machinery like factory equipment, generators and centrifuges used to create nuclear fuel. PLCs and systems like them are widely used and, in many cases, not well secured, in part because they were never designed to be connected to the Internet.

It is widely assumed that the worm made its way into Iran through covert agents who infected the system with flash drives. The worm was carefully programmed to target a specific installation and to remain inert until it found its target. When it did, it seized control of some 1,000 Iranian nuclear centrifuges. While displaying seemingly normal operating conditions to workers there, the centrifuges were forced to spin out of control and effectively destroy themselves.

In a preview video released today (embedded below), “60 Minutes” correspondent Steve Kroft appears to get a tour of the U.S. Cyber Command, the military nerve center for U.S. cyberwar operations. And, in what’s likely to be considered a not-so-subtle message in certain circles, as you see Kroft getting his tour, it’s hard not to notice the screen behind him. Plus, his host shows a Google Maps image of Iran with lots of orange dots on it.

The “60 Minutes” report is coming out just as the Obama Administration has made cyberwar to be classified as the same threat as conventional war. From that it is now American doctrine that an attack on the cyber infrastructure of America is the same as an attack against the land, property or people of the Unites States.

Will you be tuning in to the “60 Minutes” episode dealing with cyberwarfare and Stuxnet?


Here is an excerpt from the broadcast!