'Stuxnet specifically targeted Iranian nuclear program'

German expert says worm consisted of 2 "digital warheads"; compares technological advancement to "appearance of F-35 fighter jet in WWI."

November 20, 2010 13:26
1 minute read.
Workers in the Bushehr nuclear power plant

Bushehr pic newer. (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)


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The German computer security expert who first reported that the Stuxnet worm was designed to attack targets in Iran said the virus specifically attacked the country's nuclear program, in a report posted Friday.

In his analysis, Ralph Langner said Stuxnet contained two distinct "digital warheads," specifically designed to attack military targets: Uranium enrichment plants and the Bushehr nuclear power plant.

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Langner said that the portion of the worm that targeted Uranium enrichment plants manipulated the speeds of mechanical parts in the enrichment process, which would ultimately "result in cracking the rotor, thereby destroying the centrifuge."

He said the strategic importance of such an attack is that it was able to "attack and destroy centrifuge facilities that are unknown to IAEA inspectors and the world," saying that this was likely the main goal of the worm's first "warhead."

The second "warhead" targeted the Bushehr nuclear plant, according to Langner's report. Explaining how the program was designed to work, he notes that this segment of code had no relation to the first "warhead."

He purported that the second segment was intended to attack the external turbine controller of the Bushehr plant, a 150 foot "chunk of metal," that could "destroy the turbine as effectively as an air strike."


Praising the sophistication of the attack code, Langner said, "it is obvious that several years of preparation went into the design of this attack." Describing the technological advancement it represents, he compared it to "the arrival of an F-35 fighter jet on a World War I battlefield." He called the technology, "much superior to anything ever seen before, and to what was assumed possible."

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