In this month’s Vanity Fair, Michael Joseph Gross takes a long look at the origins and implications of the Stuxnet Worm, the now-infamous cyber-weapon that attacked Iran’s nuclear program last year.Gross’ piece points out holes in the commonly accepted theory that Israel was behind the cyber-attack. Instead, Gross contends, mounting evidence indicates that the U.S. was the primary force behind the development of Stuxnet:
“There is vanishingly little doubt that the United States played a role in creating the worm. Some of the evidence for this is lying in plain sight: a consistent pattern of coincidences ties Stuxnet’s evolutionary stages to milestones in the development of Iran’s nuclear program. At each of these points, which often led to heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran, Stuxnet upped its game….
These coincidences suggest that Stuxnet’s evolution—and the public disclosure of its existence and alleged purpose—was deliberately paced and may have been coordinated with diplomatic and economic pressures to slow the progress of Iran’s nuclear program. Such measured tactical responses add to the sense that Stuxnet’s operators were circumspect about their sabotage, in ways that seem more characteristic of the U.S. than of Israel.”
Regardless of the worm’s origins, Gross writes, Stuxnet’s existence forces us to confront the new face of modern warfare:
“Cyber-conflict makes military action more like a never-ending game of uncle, where the fingers of weaker nations are perpetually bent back. The wars would often be secret, waged by members of anonymous, elite brain trusts, none of whom would ever have to look an enemy in the eye. For people whose lives are connected to the targets, the results could be as catastrophic as a bombing raid, but would be even more disorienting. People would suffer, but would never be certain whom to blame.
Stuxnet is the Hiroshima of cyber-war. That is its true significance, and all the speculation about its target and its source should not blind us to that larger reality. We have crossed a threshold, and there is no turning back.”
Read the whole piece here.
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