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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sweet: Stuxnet worm forces Iran to shut centrifuges

Although the Iranians are denying it, numerous reports indicate that hundreds of Iranian centrifuges have been shut down as a result of problems caused by the Stuxnet worm.
Iran's nuclear program has suffered a recent setback, with major technical problems forcing the temporary shutdown of thousands of centrifuges enriching uranium, diplomats told The Associated Press on Monday.

The diplomats said they had no specifics on the nature of the problem that in recent months led Iranian experts to briefly power down the machines they use for enrichment — a nuclear technology that has both civilian and military uses.

But suspicions focused on the Stuxnet worm, the computer virus thought to be aimed at Iran's nuclear program, which experts last week identified as being calibrated to destroy centrifuges by sending them spinning out of control.


There have been hints that the program is beset by technical problems. Even a brief shutdown of the thousands of enriching machines would be the strongest documentation to date that the program — Iran's nuclear cornerstone and a source of national pride — is in trouble.
Bloomberg adds:
No one has claimed to be behind Stuxnet, but some analysts have speculated that it originated in Israel.

The worm "specifically controls frequency converter drives" that normally run between 807 Herz and 1210 Herz, researcher Eric Chien of the computer security company Symantec, said in an e-mail to the AP. "These are subsequently changed to run at 1410Hz, then 2Hz, and then 1064Hz."

Iran nuclear expert David Albright said it was impossible to say what would cause a disruption strong enough to idle the centrifuges but "Stuxnet would do just that.

"It would send (centrifuge) speeds up and then suddenly drop them," said Albright of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security, which has tracked Iran for signs of covert proliferation.

Albright and a colleague, Andrea Stricker, last week released a study applying Chien's finding to centrifuges. He said the worm appeared capable of pushing centrifuge speeds above their normal speeds, up to 1,410 Herz, or cycles per second, and then suddenly dropping speeds to 2 cycles per second, disrupting their operations and destroying some in the process.

Separately, another official from an IAEA member country suggested the worm could cause further damage to Iran's nuclear program.

The official also asked for anonymity because his information was privileged. He cited a Western intelligence report suggesting that Stuxnet had infected the control system of Iran's Bushehr reactor and would be activated once the Russian-built reactor goes on line in a few months.

Stuxnet would interfere with control of "basic parameters" such as temperature and pressure control and neutron flow, that could result in the meltdown of the reactor, raising the specter of a possible explosion, he said.

There was no independent confirmation. But nuclear experts have suggested that the worm's pervasive invasion of Iran's nuclear program could result in a series of problems.

Commenting on Stuxnet Monday, Olli Heinonen, the IAEA's former point man on Iran, told a Washington audience that the virus could have infected control systems at Bushehr "or elsewhere."

"It may cause a lot of havoc," he said.
Awwwwww. That would be a pity, wouldn't it?

The Washington Post adds:
Olli Heinonen, a former top IAEA official, said Monday at a meeting sponsored by the Arms Control Association that 3,772 centrifuges at the facility were being fed uranium gas and 5,084 machines were idle. "This indicates that there is a problem," he said.

Heinonen also said that Iran appears to have suffered a setback in its efforts to develop a second-generation centrifuge capable of enriching uranium more quickly. Iran's centrifuges are based on a Pakistani copy of a decades-old Dutch design, and Heinonen said Iran may have trouble obtaining the raw materials - such as high-strength carbon - for an upgrade because of international sanctions.
Now that's pretty good - over half the centrifuges aren't running.

Regardless of who is behind it, Iran's nuclear program is at least being slowed down by the worm. Whether it can be defeated altogether remains to be seen. And then there's the small matter of all those rockets in southern Lebanon. This is far from over.

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At 11:16 PM, Blogger Sunlight said...

Brilliant! Brilliant! If I knew who it was, I would, at the very least, take them to Starbucks and treat them to a latte!

Re the rockets stored in Leb and Gaza (and the WB?), we need to be analyzing what response So. Korea is "allowed" to do in response to the rockets (artillery?) that have been and may in the future be fired onto civilians. I think our big problem is that some believe that politically motivated attacks on civilians (aka "resistance") should be reasoned with, even when repeated and repeated, rather than stopped.

At 11:41 PM, Blogger Juniper in the Desert said...

Let's hope it will affect North Korea's nuke efforts!


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