Administration officials say Stuxnet was America’s first cyber weapon

The Conficker Worm is mostly a non-issue, for now. (IMG: Advico Young & Rubicam)

An excerpt from a book to be published on Tuesday by the New York Times’ David Sanger (published in today’s NYT), recounts how the Obama administration took over a project started during the second Bush administration targeting Iran. This project, code-named Olympic Games, was purely technical and resulted in what the world knows today as Stuxnet.

Sanger’s book recounts Stuxnet’s creation and usage via several interviews from various government officials in America and Israel over the last 18 months. The project dates back to 2006, when the Bush administration needed a way to deal with Iran.

From the Friday’s New York Times:

“Mr. Obama decided to accelerate the attacks — begun in the Bush administration and code-named Olympic Games — even after an element of the program accidentally became public in the summer of 2010 because of a programming error that allowed it to escape Iran’s Natanz plant and sent it around the world on the Internet. Computer security experts who began studying the worm, which had been developed by the United States and Israel, gave it a name: Stuxnet.”

Even after Stuxnet was accidently exposed to the world, the Obama administration continued their efforts, releasing a newer versions of the worm, including what could only be Duqu.

Iran initially denied that Stuxnet had any impact on their enrichment operations, but later admitted to the presence of the Worm and claimed that they had contained it. Shortly after that, Iran reported detecting the “Stars” Worm, which would later be named Duqu by the security community.

“It appears to be the first time the United States has repeatedly used cyberweapons to cripple another country’s infrastructure, achieving, with computer code, what until then could be accomplished only by bombing a country or sending in agents to plant explosives,” the NY Times reported.

Using cyber warfare was a new territory, and President Obama constantly had this fact weighing on his mind. Still, he moved forward with Stuxnet’s usage, because he felt that when it came to stopping Iran’s nuclear program, the U.S. had little choice in the matter.

“If Olympic Games failed, he told aides, there would be no time for sanctions and diplomacy with Iran to work. Israel could carry out a conventional military attack, prompting a conflict that could spread throughout the region,” the book except explains.

According to the report, Iran’s latest cyber threat, Flame, is not related to Olympic Games, despite its complexity and creativeness.

The full New York Times story is here. The book is available for pre-order on Amazon.

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