As The Worm Turns: Cybersecurity Expert Tracks Blowback From Stuxnet | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

NPR : News

As The Worm Turns: Cybersecurity Expert Tracks Blowback From Stuxnet

The CIA has a term called "blowback" to describe when an operation against the enemy has unintended negative consequences for the U.S. or its allies. In the age of cyberwarfare, blowback seems to be a paramount concern.

Take Stuxnet, the worm directed against Iran in 2010 that ended up infecting computers around the world – including in the United States. We learned today in The New York Times what had long been suspected: that Stuxnet, which caused Iranian uranium enrichment centrifuges to grind to a halt, was made in the USA.

(Earlier this week, we also learned of another Iran-specific piece of malware dubbed Flame.)

Eric Byres, a leading cybersecurity expert, was part of a team at Tofino Security that spent months on Stuxnet "taking that puppy apart," he says.

Byres says Stuxnet's creator took several swipes at Iran's nuclear facilities before hitting paydirt, but each tweak also made the worm more likely to break out and cause collateral damage in untargeted networks.

"One was so virulent that it got out of the box," he says.

There are some safeguards that might have prevented Stuxnet's escape, Byres says.

"You can bet that whoever created this is trying to figure out how to keep it from happening again," he says, adding, "In hindsight, I would do things like check the character set and the time zone of the infected computer. Things that would indicate whether you're in an Iranian computer or not. For example, the code could ask itself whether that's a Farsi keyboard or not and self-destruct if it isn't."

There's no evidence that Iran intentionally unleashed Stuxnet back on the U.S., although that seems like only a matter of time. Every time a cyberattack is launched, you risk handing ammunition to the enemy, he says.

"This is an arms race. It's like the first guy to throw a bronze spear. He might have won, but if his enemies survived and pulled it out of the ground, the first thing they'd say is, 'We've got to make one like this.' That's what's happening here."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

WAMU 88.5

Art Beat With Lauren Landau, July 1, 2015

You can check out work by local women artists or see a comedy about how one woman’s midlife crisis affects those around her.

WAMU 88.5

Food Packaging & Pricing

Have you ever popped open a bag of potato chips only to be disappointed by the number of crisps in your bag? It's not just you. To avoid raising prices, companies often increase their "nonfunctional slack fill" or the difference between the volume of product and its container. We talk about how food packaging affects your recipe and wallet.

WAMU 88.5

Environmental Outlook: The Growing Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement

A look at the growing fossil fuel divestment movement.

NPR

USA's 'Mr. Robot,' HBO's 'Ballers' Among Picks For Best Summer TV Series

As a flood of at least 120 new and returning series come to TV this summer, NPR's TV critic picks four shows most worth binge watching by the pool.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.