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Author Topic: Does the US Government write computer viruses?  (Read 6740 times)

Offline CliffordK

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Does the US Government write computer viruses?
« on: 04/06/2012 18:00:51 »
Stuxnet (& here) was a computer virus/worm written in collaboration between the USA and Israel to specifically target and damage Iranian uranium refining equipment.

And, like many computer viruses, it managed to get loose and infect PCs around the world. 

I suppose there are many issues such as the covert operations to destroy or physically damage Iranian equipment (a country we are perhaps in a cold war with, but not an active war).

After spending hundreds of hours killing viruses, I have a strong repulsion to the development of viruses, and believe that they cost the USA and the world billions, of dollars every year.  This computer attack will likely eventually lead to a strong retaliation effort from Iran. 

It will set a global precedence.  How can we complain about other countries committing international cyber-terror on the USA if we are already doing it.


 

Offline syhprum

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Re: Does the US Government write computer viruses?
« Reply #1 on: 04/06/2012 22:11:24 »
To digress a moment from the ethics of cyber war (which like all war disgusts me) I am surpised that the operation of uranium centrifuges is soley under the control of software and not supplemented by physical over revving and over acceleration mechanical protection.
I have often thought that the writing of viruses and anti virus software was a rather incestuous business with one dependent on the other.
 

Offline CliffordK

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Re: Does the US Government write computer viruses?
« Reply #2 on: 04/06/2012 23:57:43 »
Yes, I found it interesting that a Microsoft based PC was the only thing keeping a centrifuge from blowing up.  Of course, the centrifuges are likely running at 99% of their design capabilities.  The power applied to the centrifuge would be dependent to some extent on the weight of the material inside of the centrifuge.  Plus temperatures would have to be tightly controlled to maintain uranium vapor without overheating the devices.  Of course it is easiest to just maintain software controls rather than both hardware and software controls & monitoring systems.

One thing about the antivirus programs is that whenever a virus is detected, one could analyse the vulnerability that allowed the virus attack, and close the vulnerability, thus no similar viruses could be written (although many viruses depend on users doing stupid things).  What the antivirus programs do instead is to kill off the specific virus, and not necessarily eliminate the vulnerability, so potentially multiple additional viruses could be written.

In the case of this cyberterror case, the US government was aware of a vulnerability in Microsoft products, but rather than reporting this vulnerability, they chose to write a virus/worm to utilize the vulnerability.  Thus, one has to wonder how serious the government actually is about cybersecurity.
 

Offline CliffordK

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Re: Does the US Government write computer viruses?
« Reply #3 on: 05/06/2012 00:54:20 »
Ahhh.
UF6 has a surprisingly low boiling point (56.5 °C (sublimes), triple point at 64.05 °C), and is thus is a much better target for centrifuging than other forms of uranium.

Now, that makes sense, I was wondering how they could run the centrifuges at the temperature to vaporize the metallic form of the element.

And Fluorine has only one stable isotope, 19F, making it handy for isotopic separation of Uranium.
 

Offline RD

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Re: Does the US Government write computer viruses?
« Reply #4 on: 05/06/2012 03:22:54 »
The German government does ...  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-15253259 [aka "R2D2" spyware ]

The spyware was to monitor criminals, with the consent of a Judge, but R2D2 went rogue. 
« Last Edit: 05/06/2012 03:27:01 by RD »
 

Offline syhprum

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Re: Does the US Government write computer viruses?
« Reply #5 on: 05/06/2012 07:45:53 »
The software controlling the centrifuges was not Windows but special Siemens software for their control units it is thought that the virus was introduced via USB dongles which would have been a clear breach of operating procedures hence the authorities accusing the operators of incomtepence
 

Offline CliffordK

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Re: Does the US Government write computer viruses?
« Reply #6 on: 05/06/2012 08:40:17 »
The Stuxnet virus was a PC virus that managed to infect half of all Iraqi computers, as well as computers around the world including in the USA.  See the Wikipedia article above.  The system apparently was PC based with a Siemen's controller & PLC (Programmable Logic Controller).  Maybe it is a mixed network with Siemens computers and PC's, so the virus uses both.

From reading the articles, I would say that there likely there was a spy that intentionally manually uploaded the virus.  The "escape" of the virus was unintentional.  The virus was written to recognize subnets, but not able to differentiate between the intended subnets and the internet.
 

Offline Geezer

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Re: Does the US Government write computer viruses?
« Reply #7 on: 05/06/2012 08:44:00 »
The Stuxnet virus was a PC virus that managed to infect half of all Iraqi computers, a

Don't you mean Iranian computers?
 

Offline graham.d

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Re: Does the US Government write computer viruses?
« Reply #8 on: 05/06/2012 12:07:14 »
Computer viruses are nasty things, having spent much time and money to eliminate the things. On the other hand, if the choice is between attacking Iran with a computer virus or large bombs, I'd guess the former is a better choice. The US assistance of Israel may be the only way the US has in deflecting Israel from the more aggressive approach.
 

Offline syhprum

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Re: Does the US Government write computer viruses?
« Reply #9 on: 05/06/2012 12:30:51 »
"if the choice is between attacking Iran with a computer virus or large bombs"
There is of course another choice to leave Iran alone, countries that have nuclear bombs or at least let it be known that they are capable of making them such as North Korea or Pakistan don't get invaded.
 

Offline graham.d

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Re: Does the US Government write computer viruses?
« Reply #10 on: 05/06/2012 12:59:12 »
That is because NK and Pakistan are not perceived as a direct threat to Israel. The realpolitik of the situation is that Israel thinks that Iran is a threat to them and that they have a huge leverage in the US. The option of doing nothing is not an option given much consideration.
 

Offline syhprum

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Re: Does the US Government write computer viruses?
« Reply #11 on: 05/06/2012 15:01:34 »
The bible belt folks I was staying with last week send missionaries to Israel to convert the Jews to chistianity, let us wish them luck
 

Offline graham.d

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Re: Does the US Government write computer viruses?
« Reply #12 on: 05/06/2012 16:06:42 »
Hmm! Better not get into that discussion here.
 

Offline CliffordK

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Re: Does the US Government write computer viruses?
« Reply #13 on: 06/06/2012 08:01:59 »
Oops, yes, Iran.

I have no doubt that once the deliberate covert sabotage was discovered, the result will be to make Iran angry and stubborn.

The history of the Iranian nuclear program is actually quite interesting, with the USA selling a nuclear reactor to Iran in 1967. 

Early on, there seems to have been a strong commitment to build multiple nuclear power plants. 

Then in 1979, the Iranians stormed the US Embassy, and everything changed.

They likely have dual purposes.  I have no doubt that they will build a civilian nuclear program. 

Will they also do military applications?  Quite possible.

Certainly the USA has made it difficult to foster a working relationship with the Iranians, which was not helped at all by President Bush defining Iran as part of the "Axis of Evil".  This covert computer sabotage will further sour the relationship between the countries.

And, if I found a computer virus on my computer that was written by the Iranian government, I'd be pretty pissed, and very suspicious, despite assurances that it wasn't intended to harm my PC.
 

Offline RD

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Re: Does the US Government write computer viruses?
« Reply #14 on: 06/06/2012 20:52:58 »
... convert the Jews to chistianity ...

They'll need one of these adapters for the menfolks ...

« Last Edit: 06/06/2012 21:03:12 by RD »
 

Offline nicephotog

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Re: Does the US Government write computer viruses?
« Reply #15 on: 07/06/2012 15:13:13 »
In weighing up an enemy as being a threat, anything with an IQ sufficient to collect or create radioisotopes for Uranium refining would not connect their computational equipment to the world, particularly with that much free porn available.
To attack Iranian computers would require to be an inside job and probably are programmed by machine and assembler, but i suppose in the true spirit of the creation of cyborgs, the makers programmed their predatory minded virus to become bored and thus require venting by attacking whatever is available, e.g. its own handlers aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhrg!!!!!!!!!!!!
 

Offline wolfekeeper

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Re: Does the US Government write computer viruses?
« Reply #16 on: 08/06/2012 23:20:13 »
The bible belt folks I was staying with last week send missionaries to Israel to convert the Jews to chistianity, let us wish them luck
I don't. There's a sizable fraction of Christians, particularly in America, that actively want thermonuclear war in the middle east because they think that that's going to be the final war where God wins.

They're in the same voting block (Christian zionists) that prop up Israel (otherwise Jewish people are only 2% of the American population and don't directly have much clout).

On the upside, I think that by and large the Israelis think that these guys are nuts, but they're not complaining about the level of support they get.

I think the fewer Christians there are in Israel with those kinds of belief the better!
 

Offline CliffordK

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Re: Does the US Government write computer viruses?
« Reply #17 on: 08/06/2012 23:56:46 »
There is another wicked virus called "FLAME" that is also circulating in Iran. 

Potentially also attributable to the USA and Israel, although the origin hasn't been specified yet.

It is the ultimate spy tool.  It can be targeted to individual computers, and is capable of retrieving E-mail, Activating a web cam & microphone, key logging, accessing bluetooth devices including cell phones, and downloading information from cell phones.   

And, it can be dynamically upgraded (although apparently the most recent upgrade is a kill command to attempt to cover its tracks).

No wonder the USA is so adamant about companies beefing up their cyber-security.  I can only imagine the potential blowback from these attacks.

But, it also demonstrates the potential for the government to spy on its own people.

Here is an interesting article: Obama's virus wars: mutually assured cyber-destruction

And, according to the article, as I had previously suggested:
Quote
But there are major problems with cyber warfare as a tool of national policy. First, if the US really does want to reduce Iran's perceived nuclear threat through negotiations, covert acts of sabotage only hinder such diplomatic efforts. The fiercely nationalist Iranians will not take kindly to such acts,
[...]
Can we imagine how the US would react if a competing power engaged in such acts of terror against us? In fact, we don't need to: the Wall Street Journal reported a year ago that the Pentagon determined that computer sabotage may constitute an "act of war" against the United States, to which we might respond militarily. So, in effect, we are doing to Iran precisely what we've said we might attack another country for doing to us.
[...]
The most critical long-term danger posed by cyber warfare, however, is "as ye sow so shall ye reap". In other words, now we've done it to the Iranians. But they are quick learners and shrewd. After containing the sophisticated computer worms, they will modify them for use in their own cyber warfare. What will stop Iran from doing it to us? Our cyber security experts have told us that no matter how "hard" a target we are, this country is so dependent on computer technology that there will be millions of weaknesses to exploit. A determined enemy will find a way to exploit them. If the enemy is skilled enough, the damage could be catastrophic.
[...]
Again, once we've used this weapon on our enemies, we've opened a Pandora's Box – which others will seek to exploit also. Are we so certain that our use of the cyber weapons has been and will continue to be just, pure and morally defensible, compared to those who follow us who may or may not have our compunctions?
 

Offline grizelda

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Re: Does the US Government write computer viruses?
« Reply #18 on: 16/06/2012 09:40:39 »
Perhaps the Iranian operation is being used as a "honey pot" to attract the best of U.S. cyber weaponry so it can be passed on to China or Russia without them having to expose their own networks. Ditto for North Korea.
 

Offline William McCormick

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Re: Does the US Government write computer viruses?
« Reply #19 on: 03/09/2012 21:32:32 »
In weighing up an enemy as being a threat, anything with an IQ sufficient to collect or create radioisotopes for Uranium refining would not connect their computational equipment to the world, particularly with that much free porn available.
To attack Iranian computers would require to be an inside job and probably are programmed by machine and assembler, but i suppose in the true spirit of the creation of cyborgs, the makers programmed their predatory minded virus to become bored and thus require venting by attacking whatever is available, e.g. its own handlers aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhrg!!!!!!!!!!!!

My father was flown to Israel by Grumman Aero Space, many years ago, because my father held something like 134 welding certifications. And they needed to weld planes in Israel and they needed to be shown how. The Israelis boasted that they have spies in most of the other nations around them. Even in very high cabinet member positions. That could just be rumor to make other countries paranoid. But I thought it a very dangerous thing to say. It makes them guilty of acts of war, or at least guilty of trying to destroy the trust good nations need amongst top leaders, to become better nations.

                      Sincerely,

                            William McCormick

 

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Re: Does the US Government write computer viruses?
« Reply #19 on: 03/09/2012 21:32:32 »

 

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