01.16.11

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Iran Shows the Downside of Using Proprietary Software

Posted in Asia, Microsoft, Security, Windows at 12:39 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Esfahan mosques

Summary: Danger of depending on someone else’s secret code (Microsoft Windows) demonstrated by Stuxnet and the collateral damage of spreading of viruses by governments

Conspiracy theory? No, not just a theory anymore. There are loads of articles derived from the first one this weekend:

Israel Tests on Worm Called Crucial in Iran Nuclear Delay

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.

‘Israel tested Stuxnet on Iran, with US help’

US and Israeli intelligence services collaborated to develop a destructive computer worm to sabotage Iran’s efforts to make a nuclear bomb, The New York Times reported on Saturday. In its online edition, the Times quoted intelligence and military experts as saying Israel has tested the effectiveness of the Stuxnet computer worm, which apparently shut down a fifth of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges in November and helped delay its ability to make its first nuclear weapons.

The testing took place at the heavily guarded Dimona complex in the Negev desert housing the Middle East’s sole, albeit undeclared nuclear weapons program. Experts and officials told the Times the effort to create Stuxnet was a US-Israeli project with the help, knowingly or not, of Britain and Germany.

Stuxnet: It’s Bush’s fault!

It’s called “an admission against interest” in legal circles. Example: When the New York Times says something good about George W. Bush. It was George W. Bush’s fault, the NYT just confessed, that the Stuxnet computer worm ended up destroying 984 Iranian uranium centrifuges over the last year or so. Bush got the Stuxnet program started in cooperation with Israel and other countries in the last years of his presidency.

Israel tested worm linked to Iran atom woes – report

It added it was not clear the attacks were over and that some experts believed the Stuxnet code contained the seeds for more versions and assaults.

What about all the innocent businesses and homes that got infected by the same worm? Can they sue the involved governments for damages? Why is it OK for governments to do what people normally go to jail for?

It ought to be mentioned that Techrights covered this like 3 times before (see links below), but only now is it more confirmed.

More on Stuxnet:

  1. Ralph Langner Says Windows Malware Possibly Designed to Derail Iran’s Nuclear Programme
  2. Windows Viruses Can be Politically Motivated Sometimes
  3. Who Needs Windows Back Doors When It’s So Insecure?
  4. Windows Insecurity Becomes a Political Issue
  5. Windows, Stuxnet, and Public Stoning
  6. Stuxnet Grows Beyond Siemens-Windows Infections
  7. Has BP Already Abandoned Windows?
  8. Reports: Apple to Charge for (Security) Updates
  9. Windows Viruses Can be Politically Motivated Sometimes
  10. New Flaw in Windows Facilitates More DDOS Attacks
  11. Siemens is Bad for Industry, Partly Due to Microsoft
  12. Microsoft Security Issues in The British Press, Vista and Vista 7 No Panacea
  13. Microsoft’s Negligence in Patching (Worst Amongst All Companies) to Blame for Stuxnet
  14. Microsoft Software: a Darwin Test for Incompetence
  15. Bad September for Microsoft Security, Symantec Buyout Rumours
  16. Microsoft Claims Credit for Failing in Security
  17. Many Windows Servers Being Abandoned; Minnesota Goes the Opposite Direction by Giving Microsoft Its Data
  18. Windows Users Still Under Attack From Stuxnet, Halo, and Zeus
  19. Security Propaganda From Microsoft: Villains Become Heroes
  20. Security Problems in iOS and Windows
  21. Eye on Security: BBC Propaganda, Rootkits, and Stuxnet in Iran’s Nuclear Facilities
  22. Eye on Security: ClamAV Says Windows is a Virus, Microsoft Compromises Mac OS X, and Stuxnet Runs Wild
  23. Windows Kernel Vulnerability for Thanksgiving, Insecurity Used for Surveillance Again
  24. Cablegate Reveals Government Requesting Access to Microsoft Data, Kill Switches
  25. Use Microsoft Windows, Get Assassinated
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7 Comments

  1. Jose_X said,

    January 16, 2011 at 11:58 pm

    Gravatar

    Ah, this makes sense.

    The recent strong push towards Linux by Russia might have been because they realized that malware that could shut down their systems were already existent and the closest allies of Microsoft (eg, Americans) would have the advantages.

    I think Iran uses Russian technology and the results of the malware attack would have been known to Russia (in time to make their own Linux headlines) before the malware made headlines.

    Jose_X Reply:

    This has just been released: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/16/world/middleeast/16stuxnet.html?_r=1&hp=&pagewanted=all .

    The story appears to leverage some Wikileaks material (?) and covers the Stuxnet worm.

    Reading over it, it seems to me that Iran likely uses centrifuges (P-1 from Pakistan) from a design going back many years but likely uses at least some modern components to control this system. One modern component would be a “controller” which apparently includes software built by Siemens (P.C.S.-7). This software likely runs on a version of Windows OS ( http://cryptome.org/0003/siemens-pcs7-sec.pdf ?) and had been known for having some security holes. What may perhaps have been a dual Israeli/US effort to create Stuxnet apparently made its way into a shipment of those controllers perhaps after being intercepted on way to Iran.

    The story leaves a number of things up in the air but draws a bunch of dots which suggest the above description might be correct. The PCS 7 pdf link to Windows is something I googled quickly trying to find a link to Windows since Stuxnet was known to attack Windows systems. The NYTimes article doesn’t mention Windows anywhere, and the PDF only suggests its related to a Microsoft product.

    Jose_X Reply:

    Anyway, so Russia possibly recently got the extra urge to avoid Windows as a story related to this stuxnet story provided by the NYTimes reinforced in their minds that Windows vulnerabilities is indeed a national vulnerability if important systems in Russia were to be based on Windows. Windows naturally being a system where advantage most likely lies with Americans or at least people outside Russia.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Thanks for accumulating all this valuable information.

    Well, ‘Windows viruses” can be a reasonable classification given that it now effects a lot more sites and deployments. Stuxnet has variants. Earlier today I found “Special Report: Stuxnet may be the Hiroshima of our time”

    The issue of righteousness or even strategic validity of a preemptive attack becomes more blurry when the attack is to prevent a possible behavior by another sovereign nation that may or may not pose a direct threat to the preemptively attacking nation.

    This, of course, was the question with Saddam Hussein’s supposed weapons of mass destruction, and is likely to be the question with Iran’s nuclear activities.

    In these cases, the justifications are more murky. As we all know, the attack on Saddam substantially destabilized the region, drew the United States into an unending war, cost us thousands of lives and billions of dollars, and hasn’t resulted in a net positive benefit to American security.

    But that’s because Saddam apparently didn’t have WMDs. If he did, we still don’t know if he’d have actually used them, paraded them around as a point of pride, or simply stockpiled them.

    It is getting political.

    Jose_X Reply:

    This is a Siemens documentation for pcs7 in case anyone cares http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=9&ved=0CEkQFjAI&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.automation.siemens.com%2Fw2%2Fefiles%2Fpcs7%2Fpdf%2F76%2Fkg_stpcs7_v61_en.pdf&rct=j&q=Process%20Control%20System%207%20Windows&ei=t1o3TbuyBcGCgAeEmc2mBA&usg=AFQjCNFIHiLRGKsHuhFiYfpvfuuMhWRPQQ&cad=rja

    The Windows connection is no secret as I found out by some googling.

    This page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stuxnet covers Stuxnet well but is not updated to include the following from the NYTimes article reference to the wikileaks cables:

    > Controllers, and the electrical regulators they run, became a focus of sanctions efforts. The trove of State Department cables made public by WikiLeaks describes urgent efforts in April 2009 to stop a shipment of Siemens controllers, contained in 111 boxes at the port of Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. They were headed for Iran, one cable said, and were meant to control “uranium enrichment cascades” — the term for groups of spinning centrifuges.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    IMHO, they only provide Iran with more reasons to get angry while they pursue the inevitable.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    I just waned to add this reference I found several hours ago:

    There is a growing sentiment among security researchers that the programmers behind the Stuxnet attack may not have been the super-elite cadre of developers that they’ve been mythologized to be in the media. In fact, some experts say that Stuxnet could well have been far more effective and difficult to detect had the attackers not made a few elementary mistakes.

    In a talk at the Black Hat DC conference here Tuesday, Tom Parker, a security consultant, presented a compelling case that Stuxnet may be the product of a collaboration between two disparate groups, perhaps a talented group of programmers that produced most of the code and exploits and a less sophisticated group that may have adapted the tool for its eventual use. Parker analyzed the code in Stuxnet and looked at both the quality of the code itself as well as how well it did what it was designed to do, and found several indications that the code itself is not very well done, but was still highly effective on some levels.

    We’re going to hear a lot more about Stuxnet.

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