Insight: AC/DC in Iranian nuclear facility attack and World Internet War I

You've been Thunderstruck, really

A few weeks ago I wrote about the Stuxnet worm that was targeted at Siemens industrial control systems and is thought responsible for damaging centrifuges used by the Iranian nuclear program to purify uranium.

This complex and sophisticated worm was revealed by The New York Times to be the creation of a joint U.S. and Israeli intelligence operation called "Operation Olympic Games" which was started under the Bush administration and expanded under the Obama administration.

As has been widely reported, Stuxnet apparently did its job very well and so, of course, it's a foregone conclusion that if one malware attack was successful then that's just the beginning of what will be many malware skirmishes that will be launched by both sides.

What is happening under our noses is the first World Internet War (WIW).

BACKGROUND: Cyberwar sabers rattle across the globe

Mostly, we civilians aren't aware of the battle and, if we become collateral damage when routers are knocked out and we loose Internet service or we get infected by military malware or services we use get taken out for a few hours or days, there's really no serious consequences; there'll be no lives lost or property damaged that can't be recovered. Even so, the cost of this war and those that will follow will be enormous if only due to the military expenditures involved and the cost of evermore elaborate security measures.

An interesting aspect of this war is that, while governments might be driving the conflict, there's plenty of opportunity for any group or individual with an agenda and the chutzpah, to get involved. These vigilantes may or may not make an impact but when they do, it can be impressive.

If you doubt that this war is actually ongoing and that the vigilantes are already playing, then consider a recent report by Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer for the security company F-Secure. Hypponen received messages from a scientist in the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) which claimed that a new worm had been found and was responsible for an attack that shut down automation networks at Natanz and Fordo near Qom. The email explained:

According to the email our cyber experts sent to our teams, they believe a hacker tool Metasploit was used. The hackers had access to our VPN. The automation network and Siemens hardware were attacked and shut down. I only know very little about these cyber issues as I am scientist not a computer expert.

There was also some music playing randomly on several of the workstations during the middle of the night with the volume maxed out. I believe it was playing 'Thunderstruck' by AC/DC.

I love this! There's something incredibly funny about making the computers play AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" as a sort of "neener, neener, neener, got you!" I shall spare you the lyrics of this song other than noting they include the refrain "You've been Thunderstruck" (along with many repetitions of "Thunderstruck, yeah, yeah, yeah").

Now, it's possible that this attack was actually orchestrated (pun intended) by one of our many military and security agencies that go by TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms ... except for those with ETLAs or Extended Three Letter Acronyms) pretending to be amateurs, but I'm guessing that the nose thumbing was more inline with the style of the hacker community.

This makes me wonder what other pop songs might be played as a "gotcha" announcement by malware ... perhaps Alice Cooper's "Feed My Frankenstein"? Pink Floyd's "The Dogs of War"? Led Zeppelin's "Communications Breakdown"?

I'm sure you can come up with better suggestions ...

Gibbs calls the tune in Ventura, Calif. Your playlists to gearhead@gibbs.com and follow him on Twitter (@quistuipater) and on Facebook (quistuipater).

Read more about wide area network in Network World's Wide Area Network section.

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