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Lights Out for Ahmadinejad?

September 22nd, 2010 - 9:26 am

Does the West have the ability to paralyze Iran — without firing a shot? Trevor Butterworth reports on the “Stuxnet” worm which infests Iran’s electrical grid:

Computer World magazine recently pronounced Stuxnet, “a piece of malware so devious in its use of unpatched vulnerabilities, so sophisticated in its multipronged approach, that the security researchers who tore it apart believe it may be the work of state-backed professionals.” And according to the latest article in the magazine, speculation is rife that Israel may have been behind the worm – and that it was designed to sabotage or even take control of the operating systems for Iran’s Bushehr nuclear reactor.

Whether that is what really happened is beside the point. The reality of Stuxnet (and more to the point, its next incarnation) is that critical state infrastructure can be commandeered and destroyed without anyone firing a shot. The very prospect that Israel – or whomever – could shut down Iran by destroying its electrical grid through causing every generator to overload in a matter of minutes is a powerful signal: the signal that cyber war has physical consequences that make conventional air strikes look quaint and maladroit, so 20th century.

But who’s willing to throw the switch?

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