Report: Stuxnet May Have Strengthened Iran's Nuclear Capabilities

A researcher argues that the malware, designed to damage the country's enrichment facilities, actually improved Iran's capability to enrich uranium.


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A new paper published in an academic journal argues that the Stuxnet malware, which was intended to damage Iran's nuclear program, actually strengthened that program in the long run. The U.S. and Israel are widely believed to be responsible for the Stuxnet cyberattack.

The Telegraph's Jennifer O'Mahony reported, "Iran's nuclear potential may have been significantly increased by the Stuxnet worm that is believed to have infected the country's uranium enrichment facility at Natanz in 2009 and 2010, new research claims. The report, published in the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) journal, claims the Stuxnet worm exposed vulnerabilities in Iranian enrichment facilities that would otherwise have gone unnoticed, and that production actually went up in the year after it was allegedly discovered."

In her paper in the RUSI Journal (pdf), Ivanka Barzashka wrote, "Stuxnet was not very effective, was not well timed and, looking back, was of net benefit to Iran, which increased its nuclear-weapons potential while the world thought its nuclear programme had been set back."

The New York Post's Michael Blaustein added, "Backing up [Barzashka's] position is the fact that before the attack, Iran was enriching uranium to 3.5 percent, and after the attack it began enriching uranium to 20 percent. For a bomb, Iran will need to enrich uranium to about 90 percent."

Haaretz observed, "According to experts, the Stuxnet infiltration preceded the deployment of another worm, which was dubbed Duqu, that was also used to spy on the program. An additional malicious spying software, 'Flame,' was later discovered to have been used against Iranian fuel depots. According to a book published a year ago, U.S. President Barack Obama had ordered an escalation of cyber warfare operations, and co-ordinated with Israelis tightened in order to prevent an IDF attack on Iran."

Tags: malware, government, cyberattack, Iran, Stuxnet

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