Tracker Pixel for Entry

​A Cute Little Computer Story

by Chuck Solly | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Culture | May 30th, 2018

I normally don’t tell stories in this column but I couldn’t resist this one. With Iran in the news, I am reminded of the destruction of the Iranian nuclear development program by a piece of software called Stuxnet. I remember back in 2011 the smartest people in the room commenting about the software and wondering what would happen if that software code were let loose on the world.

It's now widely accepted that Stuxnet was created by the intelligence agencies of the United States and Israel. The classified program to develop the worm was given the code name "Operation Olympic Games"; it was begun under President George W. Bush and continued under President Obama. While neither government has ever officially acknowledged developing Stuxnet, a 2011 video created to celebrate the retirement of Israeli Defense Forces head Gabi Ashkenazi listed Stuxnet as one of the successes under his watch.

While the individual engineers behind Stuxnet haven't been identified, we know that they were very skilled, and that there were a lot of them. Kaspersky Lab's Roel Schouwenberg estimated that it took a team of ten coders two to three years to create the worm in its final form. Several surveys that have come out just recently have Stuxnet listed as the most complex piece of software in the world.

So, what the heck is going on?

Why spend all of this time and money developing a computer worm?

The U.S. and Israeli governments intended Stuxnet as a tool to derail, or at least delay, the Iranian program to develop nuclear weapons. The Bush and Obama administrations believed that if Iran were on the verge of developing atomic weapons, Israel would launch airstrikes against Iranian nuclear facilities in a move that could have set off a regional war. Operation Olympic Games was seen as a nonviolent alternative. Although it wasn't clear that such a cyberattack on physical infrastructure was even possible, there was a dramatic meeting in the White House Situation Room late in the Bush presidency during which pieces of a destroyed test centrifuge were spread out on a conference table. It was at that point that the U.S. gave the go-head to unleash the malware.

Stuxnet was never intended to spread beyond the Iranian nuclear facility at Natanz. The facility was air-gapped and not connected to the internet. That meant that it had to be infected via USB sticks transported inside by intelligence agents or unwilling dupes, but also meant the infection should have been easy to contain. However, the malware did end up on internet-connected computers and began to spread in the wild due to its extremely sophisticated and aggressive nature, though as noted it did little damage to outside computers it infected.

So what is the answer to the question above? What would happen if that software code were let loose on the world?

Here is one answer…

Alex Gibney, the Oscar-nominated documentarian behind films like "Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room and Going Clear," directed "Zero Days," which explains the history of Stuxnet's discovery and its impact on relations between Iran and the west. Zero Days includes interviews with O'Murchu and some of his colleagues, and is available in full on YouTube.

One dramatic sequence shows how the Symantec team managed to drive home Stuxnet's ability to wreak real-world havoc: they programmed a Siemens PLC (programible logic controller) to inflate a balloon, then infected the PC it was controlled by with Stuxnet. The results were dramatic: despite only being programmed to inflate the balloon for five seconds, the controller kept pumping air into until it burst.

The destruction of the Iranian uranium centrifuges, which followed the same logic—they were spun too quickly and destroyed themselves—was perhaps less visually exciting, but was ultimately just as dramatic. As the documentary explains, we now live in a world where computer malware code is causing destruction at a physical level. It's inevitable that we'll see more in the future.

Stay Tuned...

Recently in:

FARGO – On Sunday, September 23, 2018 at 5:33 a.m., Fargo Police officers responded to medical assist at the McDonalds located at 905 Main Avenue. Once on scene, officers located a male, in his twenties, laying in the parking…

by Ryan Jankeryanjanke@hpr1.comPhoto by Anne BradleyValkyries of the Valley will invade the North Dakota Apartment Wrestling Federation (NDAWF) for Brawl-esque, a variety show that will be held at Prairie Brothers Brewing Company…

Best Bets

Spirit Talk

by HPR Staff

Thursday, September 27, 7-9 p.m.Homewood Suites by Hilton Fargo, 2021 16th St N., FargoGet in touch with the other side! Sunny Dawn Johnston will help you reach the spirit world in this two-hour, eye-opening event. This is a group…

It’s bad enough when his word versus her word regarding sexual assault gets out in a high school hallway, but can you imagine it spreading throughout the national news media? Imagine reliving those events every time you turn on…

We failed to educate the players of “flag” footballI passed all of the American history courses in Morrison County District 54, Little Falls High School, and Moorhead State Teachers College, but I’m often appalled about what…

FARGO - A collection of memories from High Plains Reader's annual Cocktail Showdown. Participants were judged on creativity, flavor, and presentation; and this year we added a new category. Like years before, each establishment was…

by Ryan Jankeryanjanke@hpr1.comAs I sat across from my wife at Himalayan Yak Tuesday evening, it dawned on me that time had slowed down. So often when we go out to eat, we are in a hurry. We get anxious when we aren’t greeted…

Music

Back in the saddle

by Sabrina Hornung

After a long hiatus members of Teenage Lobotomy reunited for the first time in 22 years at Center Fest in Robinson North Dakota this summer. With influences such as Husker Du and the Circle Jerks their high energy immediately had…

Director Craig William Macneill speculates on the infamous legend surrounding Massachusetts murder suspect Lizzie Borden in “Lizzie,” a long-germinating labor of love for star Chloe Sevigny. Working from a screenplay by Bryce…

It may be cliche to say the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, but when wet plate artist Shane Balkowitsch found out that his 15-year-old daughter Abby Balkowitsch was following in his photography footsteps, he was…

by Stella Mehlhoffstellamehlhoff@gmail.com“Our mission is to invigorate civic conversation through intimate and transformative storytelling.” This statement posted on Theatre B’s website and tacked to their studio wall in…

In the approximately three years I’ve been writing for the High Plains Reader it seems I’ve always circled back to comedian Adam Quesnell. First, I wrote about his farewell show before he set out from Fargo and the comedy…

When walking into the new space on 1st Ave N that now houses Drekker brewing, one can only say, “Wow.” The majesty of the interior is unprecedented for a brewery in the region and provides a feeling of awe and astonishment.…

I’m a big man, I’m tall and powerful, but this also causes some issues in the body department. I suffer from acute scoliosis in my lower back, and pain radiates from this area on a daily basis. I have only ever had one massage…

By Melissa Martinmelissamartincounselor@live.comThink back to one of your worst small decisions. Then answer the following questions:How did you make the decision?What happened after the decision?When did you know it was the worst…

by Andrew Alexis Varvelmr.a.alexis.varvel@gmail.com“If a piece of equipment purchased in the 1920s is kept up and can guarantee, at present, an operable rate close to 100 percent and if it can bear the production burden placed on…