There is absolutely no proof that the United States (or Israeli) government was responsible for the Stuxnet attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. But a former CIA and National Security Agency chief says such tactics are a good idea and will now be considered legitimate.
The Stuxnet virus spread worldwide, but turned out to be specifically targeted at a particular industrial control system produced by Siemens that was being used in Iran. While full details are under wraps, it’s generally believed some equipment used in Iran’s controversial uranium enrichment program was compromised.
Stuxnet appears to have worked by forcing motors (in this case powering centrifuges) to repeatedly speed up and slow down until they burn out. There has been widespread speculation that not only would the creators of Stuxnet have required confidential details of how the equipment worked, but that the attack would have required “nation state support.”
Michael Hayden (pictured), who was CIA chief from 2006 to 2009 (retiring before the Stuxnet attack) discussed the case with CBS this weekend, noting that he had no insight into who was responsible. However, he described it as “a good idea.”
He also added that whomever had carried out the attack, others would now consider that “someone has legitimated this kind of activity as acceptable.” By that Hayden appears not only to be saying it will be acceptable for the US to use such tactics, but warning that other countries may share that view.
According to Hayden, Stuxnet should be considered a covert action rather than an act of war: “I don’t think whoever did this considered it to be an act of war. The Iranians have not quite responded to it as if it were an act of war.”
Hayden also noted that were the US to carry out such an attack, “Something of this nature gets approved in the West Wing.”
The 60 Minutes show also interviewed a former head of cybersecurity at the Department of Homeland Security who said that if a nation state was responsible for Stuxnet, it may have made a mistake. Sean McGurk noted that now the code is out there, it could well be repackaged and used as a weapon against its original creators.
[Picture Source: Wikipedia (Public Domain)]