Stuxnet, the government malware believed to have been created by a dual-venture of the US and Israel, and the one used to attack the Iran nuclear enrichment facility, is now believed to have an earlier attack link. It is believed now that sometime in 2008 was when the facility may have been in progress of attacks from Stuxnet.
Iran leaders met in Kazakhstan this week to discuss with members of the UN Security Council the nuclear program. The researchers there announced a new variant of the sophisticated Stuxnet cyberweapon.
Some have noted that the US and Israel may have partnered way before doing similar activities to try to take down the nuclear enrichment program in Iran.
The new variant was designed as a different attack vector against the centrifuges for the uranium enrichment program, versus later versions released. This “new variant” was apparently released in 2007. Here we are six years later, knowing the discovery of such variant. This shows that the current versions of Stuxnet were made in 2009, which means this variant now recognized predated the original code that researchers found. Therefore, its first version may have been in 2007. That tells security experts this: Stuxnet was attacking much earlier than previously thought.
Still to make a rebuttal, Iran is awaiting and planning new cyberwarriors, which can construct cyberattacks and cyberterrorism on the US.
Looking in the code of the 2007 version, it was used for Siemens PLCs, which are used in the Iran nuclear enrichment program in Natanz. It was aimed at sabotaging the valves’ operations, by controlling the flow of uranium.
The list of new information goes on. According to Wired Magazine, the new finding, described in a paper released by Symantec on Tuesday (.pdf), resolves a number of longstanding mysteries around a part of the attack code that appeared in the 2009 and 2010 variants of Stuxnet but was incomplete in those variants and had been disabled by the attackers.
Could there be a “cyber 9/11”? Would there be an all-out cyberwar happening right now? There is a war going on, a cyber one at that, going on here in the states. If you work for a defense contractor, bank, train and plane transportation providers (also including RTAs and other digitally-depending transportation methods), power company, water and utilities plants, etc. are in direct line of fire of potential cyberwar problems.
A brewing cyberwar has been going on in the past year, and usually people view it as governments going head to head (like it would in actual wars). However, there is more of a cyberwar against governments, corporations, and of course the entities we named above.
With seeing government threats, like Stuxnet, Flame, etc., to cybercrime units like Red October, Rustock, even Virut/Waledec – seems like the threat is getting out of hand. With the use of tactics like from these malware powerhouses, our worry for a severe (life-threatening) attack should be a lot greater…mainly to the fact that the US should seriously prepare itself.
“The cyber war has been under way in the private sector for the past year,” says Israel Martinez, a board member of the U.S. National Cyber Security Council, a nonprofit group composed of federal government and private sector executives.
“We’re finding espionage, advanced persistent threats (APTs), and other malware sitting in networks, often for more than a year before it’s ever detected,” Martinez says.
Martinez studies different issues, such as US entities being targeted by fronts from China, Iran for intellectual property theft to other cybercrimes such as stealing identities or cash.
When we look at Stuxnet for example, the US and Israel crafted it jointly to disrupt Iranian nuclear facilities. Problem here is, doing that may have just been a provoking edge to the cybcerwar for Iran to develop something else and revenge. Doing this caused Iran then, to strike back with cyber attacks on US banks. Some have thought Iran was behind the Shamoon virus as well, which wipes out 30K hard drives and taking computers offline at Saudi Aramco for several weeks.
Defense firms in the US are hoping that some of the Fortune 500 cybersecurity companies have a good plan to counterattack and defend for the US to these opponents.
The Pentagon has come back with newer accounts of management for this cyberwar by planning to increase cybersecurity teams. The Senate is continually pushing for legislation for information sharing on threats and cyber attacks. President Obama prepares to issue executive order on cybersecurity, so the Department of Defense is looking for a massive increase in the number of trained cybersecurity personnel helping to defend our country’s public and even private networks.
The government has had trouble in the past looking for the right personnel, since most are employed by agencies that don’t discuss operations publicly (due to the risk of the information getting in to the wrong hands). The Pentagon is planning to push up the number of security professionals up to 5,000 in the next few years (which is up from a little under 1,000). They’re hoping for both military and civilian security personnel to join up, so the diversity helps the US prepare for any issue.
Expect a better take charge situation by corporate, government, and private firms in this cyberwar situation!
The New York Times reported about the damages of the attacks on Saudi Aramco, a Saudi Arabian oil firm. The article stated the following, blaming Iran for the attacks on Saudi Aramco along with supporting evidence:
That morning, at 11:08, a person with privileged access to the Saudi state-owned oil company’s computers, unleashed a computer virus to initiate what is regarded as among the most destructive acts of computer sabotage on a company to date. The virus erased data on three-quarters of Aramco’s corporate PCs — documents, spreadsheets, e-mails, files — replacing all of it with an image of a burning American flag.
United States intelligence officials say the attack’s real perpetrator was Iran, although they offered no specific evidence to support that claim. But the secretary of defense, Leon E. Panetta, in a recent speech warning of the dangers of computer attacks, cited the Aramco sabotage as “a significant escalation of the cyber threat.” In the Aramco case, hackers who called themselves the “Cutting Sword of Justice” and claimed to be activists upset about Saudi policies in the Middle East took responsibility.
Intelligence officials are still investigating the nature of the RasGas hack also, because it is related to this attack, which involved a malware called Shamoon.
The investigations of Saudi Aramco and RasGas, Qatar’s top natural gas firm, are coming together. Most of the cyberattacks this year have been aimed at erasing data on energy companies’ computers. More updates to come.
- How hackers attacked Saudi oil company’s computers (seattletimes.com)
- US Increasingly Convinced Iran Behind Attack On Saudi Aramco (techweekeurope.co.uk)
- Shamoon Virus that Attacked Saudi Aramco is the Most Dangerous to Date (oilprice.com)
Various parts of the Islamic Republic were disrupted yesterday (their Internet access) after hackers attacked Iran’s infrastructure and communications companies. “Yesterday we had a heavy attack against the country’s infrastructure and communications companies which has forced us to limit the Internet,” the secretary of the High Council of Cyberspace, Mehdi Akhavan Behabadi, is said by Reuters as having told the Iranian Labour News Agency about the issues.
Some officials claim that their Internet access in Iran is constantly disrupted by cyberattacks, however, the ones yesterday were the most noticeable. This attack would be one of the largest cyberattacks so far, after several gigabytes of traffic overwhelmed the Iranian infrastructure. This is still widely accusative that the US and Israel could be involved, as a response to the nuclear program developed by Iran.
It is noticed also that the cyberwar is heating up for Iran, and that Iran could be constructing counterattacks, such as the recent one against US banks. All of these concentrated attacks are all part of military plans, which are developing “cyber warriors” or a “cyber army”. As always, news about cyberwar will continue to be on this blog.
US Senator Joe Lieberman blamed Iran for the attacks against US banks last Friday, with thoughts that Iran did so out of revenge for the Stuxnet case. The victims of last week’s attacks included Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase. Although not attacked, speculation is that CitiGroup has been a target over the past year. All of these denial of service campaigns seemed to have begun in late 2011.
In C-SPAN’s taping of “Newsmakers,” Lieberman labeled the recent DDoS attacks against the banks a “powerful example of our vulnerability”.
Now, from the perspective of Lieberman, it makes sense to make such claims. When we reported in June about a potential US and Israeli connection for malwares like Flame and Stuxnet, labeled “Operation Olympic Games”, we saw the counterattack that continued cyberwarfare between Iran and the US (as well as other countries). This could be just one of possibly many counterattacks from Iran, and it’s going to be quite dangerous to companies that are vulnerable to cyberattack.
Cyberattacks will continue with DDoS and other hacks, and it could target almost any major organization around the world. The main idea is to craft the correct cybersecurity strategies, and be aware of any attack vectors (like if there are too many people trying to hack in to the networks). It’s important to learn from issues like this, and be able to adapt the latest strategies for businesses. Which means: If you don’t have a director for information security at your major company, it’s about time to get one and soon!
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