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Iran Hit With Second Recent Cyber Attack, “Stars”

Image courtesy of Flickr user debaird

The plot in the ongoing Stuxnet story thickens…  Iranian officials have not only recently accused the U.S. and Israel of creating the Stuxnet worm as a direct attack on Iranian industry, but a high-ranking Iranian official now says that Iran has sustained a second cyber attack.

Brigadier General Gholam Reza Jalali revealed that another cyber attack was recently launched against Iran.  Jalali heads Iran’s Passive Defense Organization, a military unit in charge of building and safeguarding Iran’s nuclear enrichment facilities.  The most recent attack on Iran is a virus that has been dubbed “Stars.”

According to Jalali, computer experts on Iran’s Civil Defense team were able to identify the virus, which is now being researched.  Jalali claims that the Stars virus’ particular characteristics have been identified, asserting that, “the virus is congruous and harmonious with the (computer) system, and in the initial phase it does minor damage and might be mistaken for some executive files of government organizations.”   However, the extent of the new virus’ damage has yet to be seen.

This is not the first time Jalali has sounded the alarm when it comes to cyber attacks sustained by Iran.  He became the first Iranian official to publicly implicate the U.S. and Israel in their involvement with the Stuxnet plot, alleging that the Stuxnet worm sent reports of infected Iranian systems to computers in Texas.

In early April, Jalali went so far as to call upon Siemens to explain how and why it provided the U.S. and Israel with the information necessary for carrying out the Stuxnet worm attack.  And he’s not the only one making these claims.  The New York Times ran a story in January that discusses American and Israeli involvement in the development of the Stuxnet worm.  The article also asserts that Siemens cooperated with the Idaho National Laboratory (the U.S. Department of Energy’s lead nuclear research facility) in early 2008 to identify vulnerabilities in the SCADA software it sells for operating Industrial machinery—the same key machinery used at Iran’s enrichment facilities.

While it’s probably too early to know the consequences of the Stars virus, the Stuxnet worm’s effects are better documented.  Still, there’s significant disagreement over how effective Stuxnet was.  Brigadier General Jalali, along with most Iranian officials, maintains that Iran responded to both Stuxnet and Stars before the malware was able to cause major damage or disrupt its nuclear enrichment program.

Regardless, Jalali is pushing for legal action that would hold responsible those who launched the cyber attacks against Iran’s nuclear program, which Iran says is entirely peaceful.  Given that Stuxnet is still somewhat of a mystery—and now with the emergence of the Stars virus—it appears that Iran’s cyber warfare case is far from over.

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