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Iran's nuclear plant not the only target of the Stuxnet computer virus

posted 27 Sept 2010, 07:07 by Mpelembe   [ updated 27 Sept 2010, 07:09 ]

An estimated 30,000 internet providers are infected by the Stuxnet virus in the Islamic Republic but the country's nuclear plant is not the sole target, says an the head of an anti-virus company.

TEHRAN, IRAN (SEPTEMBER 27, 2010) REUTERS - A virus that may have been created by a foreign state has hit computers of staff at Iran's nuclear plant, said an expert on Monday (September 27).

The Stuxnet virus has not however affected the system of the Bushehr plant itself, or government systems directly.

Iran's Telecommunications Minister Reza Taqipour was quoted as saying the worm had not been able to "penetrate or cause serious damage to government systems", in the state-run newspaper Iran Daily on Sunday (September 26).

"If they are saying the sole target was the Bushehr nuclear plant, no... That is not 100 percent the case. Any industrial system which is currently active -- and especially digital systems -- can be affected by this virus, " said anti-virus expert Alireza Ahmadi in an interview with Reuters Television.

"Apparently a lot of the country's internal systems and IPs -- they say roughly 60 per cent -- have been affected by this virus," he added.

On how prepared the country is to deal with such attacks, Ahmadi said: "some critical groups were created a long time ago -- they are trained so that during critical times, they are able to provide solutions and deal these threats."

Some Western cyber security companies had suggested that the attack could only be conducted "with nation-state support", indicating industrial plants in the Islamic state were the target.

Diplomats and security sources say Western governments and Israel view sabotage as one way of slowing Iran's nuclear work, which the West fears is aimed at building bombs. Tehran says it needs nuclear technology to generate electricity.

The malware attacks software programs that run Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition, or SCADA, systems. Such systems are used to monitor automated plants -- from food and chemical facilities to power generators.

Authorities said Iran had identified some 30,000 Internet Providers (IPs) infected by the Stuxnet worm, blaming Iran's "foreign enemies for creating the virus".

Ahmadi told Reuters that the virus can not only debilitate industrial systems, but it can also retrieve sensitive information for external usage, and espionage purposes.

"The worst case scenario is that the information -- that is supposed to be kept secure and protected in an organisation -- will be accessed and retrieved externally."