The New York Times is reporting in Sunday's editions that the Stuxnet computer worm was tested at Israel's Dimona nuclear facility (Hat Tip: NY Nana).
Behind Dimona’s barbed wire, the experts say, Israel has spun nuclear centrifuges virtually identical to Iran’s at Natanz, where Iranian scientists are struggling to enrich uranium. They say Dimona tested the effectiveness of the Stuxnet computer worm, a destructive program that appears to have wiped out roughly a fifth of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges and helped delay, though not destroy, Tehran’s ability to make its first nuclear arms.
“To check out the worm, you have to know the machines,” said an American expert on nuclear intelligence. “The reason the worm has been effective is that the Israelis tried it out.”
Though American and Israeli officials refuse to talk publicly about what goes on at Dimona, the operations there, as well as related efforts in the United States, are among the newest and strongest clues suggesting that the virus was designed as an American-Israeli project to sabotage the Iranian program.
The worm itself now appears to have included two major components. One was designed to send Iran’s nuclear centrifuges spinning wildly out of control. Another seems right out of the movies: The computer program also secretly recorded what normal operations at the nuclear plant looked like, then played those readings back to plant operators, like a pre-recorded security tape in a bank heist, so that it would appear that everything was operating normally while the centrifuges were actually tearing themselves apart.
The attacks were not fully successful: Some parts of Iran’s operations ground to a halt, while others survived, according to the reports of international nuclear inspectors. Nor is it clear the attacks are over: Some experts who have examined the code believe it contains the seeds for yet more versions and assaults.
“It’s like a playbook,” said Ralph Langner, an independent computer security expert in Hamburg, Germany, who was among the first to decode Stuxnet. “Anyone who looks at it carefully can build something like it.” Mr. Langner is among the experts who expressed fear that the attack had legitimized a new form of industrial warfare, one to which the United States is also highly vulnerable.
Officially, neither American nor Israeli officials will even utter the name of the malicious computer program, much less describe any role in designing it.
By the accounts of a number of computer scientists, nuclear enrichment experts and former officials, the covert race to create Stuxnet was a joint project between the Americans and the Israelis, with some help, knowing or unknowing, from the Germans and the British.
The project’s political origins can be found in the last months of the Bush administration. In January 2009, The New York Times reported that Mr. Bush authorized a covert program to undermine the electrical and computer systems around Natanz, Iran’s major enrichment center. President Obama, first briefed on the program even before taking office, sped it up, according to officials familiar with the administration’s Iran strategy. So did the Israelis, other officials said. Israel has long been seeking a way to cripple Iran’s capability without triggering the opprobrium, or the war, that might follow an overt military strike of the kind they conducted against nuclear facilities in Iraq in 1981 and Syria in 2007.
Two years ago, when Israel still thought its only solution was a military one and approached Mr. Bush for the bunker-busting bombs and other equipment it believed it would need for an air attack, its officials told the White House that such a strike would set back Iran’s programs by roughly three years. Its request was turned down.
Now, Mr. Dagan’s statement suggests that Israel believes it has gained at least that much time, without mounting an attack. So does the Obama administration.
For years, Washington’s approach to Tehran’s program has been one of attempting “to put time on the clock,” a senior administration official said, even while refusing to discuss Stuxnet. “And now, we have a bit more.”
Dr. Cohen said his sources told him that Israel succeeded — with great difficulty — in mastering the centrifuge technology. And the American expert in nuclear intelligence, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the Israelis used machines of the P-1 style to test the effectiveness of Stuxnet.
The expert added that Israel worked in collaboration with the United States in targeting Iran, but that Washington was eager for “plausible deniability.”
Read the whole thing.
Labels: Dimona nuclear reactor, Iranian nuclear program, Natanz, Stuxnet
posted by Carl in Jerusalem @ 4:17 AM
You might like:
* Different Types of Law (eHow)
* Dead nuclear scientist headed Iran's response team to Stuxnet (this site)
* Interview with Egyptian Christian Copt :: Israel Matzav (this site)
* Gabrielle Giffords was shot because she is Jewish (this site)
(Selected for you by our sponsor )
At 4:35 AM, Blogger bacci40 said...
now this i can buy
the idea that israel alone created the worm, made no sense at all
At 4:49 AM, Blogger NY Nana said...
Shavua Tov, Carl
Thanks for the hat tip. Quite an article, and that al-NYT was actually not going after Israel, but seemingly decent, was nearly a bigger surprise than the co-operation between Israel and the USA with Hussein approving.
I am imagining the Iranians sitting there freaking out!
G-d bless Israel!
At 4:53 AM, Blogger Daniel said...
Why didn't the US do it?
At 6:13 AM, Blogger biorabbi said...
Fascinating article. It appears to have been a joint CIA-Mossad operation in the high-tech sphere with help from England and, curiously, Germany though their industrial know how.
What piqued my interest is that Stuxnet may not have finished its mission of rotary destruction. I think it's also smart for Israel and Washington to continue to leak out details as this will help dissent in Iran. How does it look if Iran's program cannot be protected by their regime?
The outgoing head of Mossad is a hero of mine. Job well done indeed!
At 11:02 AM, Blogger Sparky the Wonder Dog said...
"President Obama, first briefed on the program even before taking office, sped it up, according to officials familiar with the administration’s Iran strategy. So did the Israelis..."
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Name: Carl in Jerusalem
Location: Jerusalem, Israel