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:

BISMARCK – Two bills are fighting for ethical supremacy in the North Dakota State Legislature. Senate Bill 2148, sponsored by Senator Tim Mathern, a Democrat from Fargo, received a ‘Do Pass’ from Special Ethics Committee on…

Culture

​‘Pull-Tab’ machines

by HPR Contributor

By Zach Nerpelzachnerpel@gmail.comThere is nothing more hopeless than a feeling unrequited. The obsession it brings, the doubt it stews, and the madness which erases your sense of self are crippling. You’ll give more than you are…

Thursday, February 21, 5:30-8:30 p.m.650 40th Ave S, West FargoThe area’s premier evening of Yoga, wine, cheese and community. Luna Fargo restaurant owner and wine/cheese expert, Nikki Berglund, will select 3 pairings to follow…

It will be Valentine’s Day by the time this issue hits the stands, but who knows you might even be picking it up after you’ve finished eating the last of the chocolates you bought for yourself for Valentine’s Day.We’re not…

Gadfly

Anti-Life America

by Ed Raymond

All The Evidence Points To An Anti-Life Political PartyAfter observing and experiencing the machinations and voting records of the Republican Party from Nixon to Reagan To Bush To Trump, one can arrive at only one conclusion: It is…

After a day of checking the weather updates and keeping an eye on any closing announcements from this week’s entrants, our judges ordered up a ride share service and headed out to the western side of town for two stops in West…

Over the past few years Luna has become my favorite restaurant in the FM area. The thoughtfulness of Ryan’s creations and the neighborhood environment of the locale as a whole creates a beautiful experience that can’t be found…

Music

​Ready or Knot

by HPR Contributor

By Gary Usseryusseryg@gmail.comWhen Sabrina gets a hold of you and asks you to interview a band as unique as Fargo locals The Knotties you just yell “yes!” Only a few days later I was meeting with Channing Minnema (lead vocals,…

Documentarian Penny Lane adds another entertaining movie to her filmography with an inside look at the recent rise of the Satanic Temple. As a movie experience, “Hail Satan?” often lives deliciously. The film might even turn…

By Jacinta Zensjacinta.zens@gmail.comThe Department of Visual Arts at Minnesota State Community and Technical College Fergus Falls and the Kaddatz Galleries are excited to announce the First Annual Visiting Artists Workshop series.…

To many people unfamiliar with the wide range of the musical genre, the word ‘opera’ conjures up stereotypical images of people in period costumes and large women in Viking garb singing in foreign languages. The truth, however,…

Those who have been reading my articles for a while may remember when I interviewed Zachary Tooker about the Level Two Comedy Club at the Radisson in Fargo. While the club may have unfortunately closed, Tooker has not ceased…

The 1,290 square-foot garage that was once Main Avenue Auto has generated a lot of buzz for good reason. Harold’s on Main is Moorhead’s newest watering hole and the attention is all in the details. With its dark wood paneling,…

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 Devin Joubertdevinlillianjoubert@gmail.comIt’s that beautiful time of the year that’s filled with seasonal decorations, sparkly lights, warm family gatherings, and delicious feasts. I love everything about this time of the…

By Cara Cody-Brauncara.braun@wyndmereschools.orgI am not much of a science fiction fan, but I’m a sucker for a story with a portal. Who hasn’t dreamed of entering a different world? Alice’s fall down the rabbit hole in…