Barack Obama ‘ordered Stuxnet cyber attack on Iran’


President Barack Obama ordered the Stuxnet attack on Iran as part of a wave of   cyber sabotage and espionage against the would-be nuclear power, according   to a new book citing senior Washington sources

The computer virus, aimed at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility, was   designed to damage centrifuges by making covert adjustments to the machines   controlling them.

It formed part of a “wave” of digital attacks on Iran codenamed “Olympic   Games” and was created with the assistance of a secret Israeli   intelligence unit, The New York Times said in a   report based on a book chronicling secret wars under the Obama   administration

The report confirms the suspicions   of computer security experts who detected and forensically examined   Stuxnet in 2010. They reasoned that the technical expertise and human   intelligence sources needed to create and deliver what was described as the “world’s   first cyberweapon” pointed to a joint operation by American and Israeli   agencies.

Such third parties reportedly discovered Stuxnet as the result of a “programming   error” that meant it spread beyond the computer network at Natanz.   According to the account, President Obama asked his national security   advisers whether the attack should be halted at a White House Situation Room   meeting convened days after the virus “escaped”, but decided to   intensify it instead.

It’s estimated that Stuxnet crippled around 1,000 of 5,000 Natanz centrifuges   by spinning them at damagingly high speeds.

“This is the first attack of a major nature in which a cyberattack was used to   effect physical destruction,” said Michael Hayden a former director of the   CIA and NSA, who did not reveal his own knowledge of “Olympic Games”.

Commentators suggested that confirmation of American involvement in Stuxnet   had been released by others to neutralise any Republican election claims   that President Obama has been soft on Iran.

“Obama wanted to get credit for Stuxnet, as that makes him look tough   against Iran,” said Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer at F-Secure,   one of the security firms that have investigated Stuxnet.

The first stage of the attack, a “beacon” designed to report back   details of systems at Natanz to the National Security Agency, America’s   electronic intelligence agency, was however mounted speculatively under the   Bush administration, according to unnamed officials.

Confirmation of American involvement in Stuxnet comes as computer security   experts begin to unpick an even more complicated virus, Flame, which was   detected last month and also appears to target Iran. It is written for   espionage rather than sabotage, but like Stuxnet is passed from computer to   computer by USB thumb drives, a design feature apparently meant to limit its   spread and so reduce its risk of detection.

Getting Stuxnet into Natanz therefore required a worker at the plant to carry   it in on a USB thumb drive.

“That was our holy grail,” one of the architects of the plan told   David E Sanger, the author of the new book, Confront and Conceal: Obama’s   Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power.

“It turns out there is always an idiot around who doesn’t think much   about the thumb drive in their hand.”

The same officials declined to say whether the United States was involved in   the Flame attack, which appears to have begun five years ago, although they   did say it was not part of the “Olympic Games” programme.



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