DailyPost 2668

For the avid followers of cyber security who have been watching it for decades, Stuxnet rings a danger bell, as no other in this field. It can safely be called the 9/11 of cyber security. It came to light in 2010 and marks the beginning of weaponization of cyber tools in the true sense. It was a worm to stall the Iranian nuclear enrichment plan and thus foreclose it nuclear designs. It was joint cyber military effort* of US and Israel, to sabotage the functioning of centrifuges in the Iranian nuclear enrichment plant at Natanz by compromising the industrial control systems.

It was accepted that a pen drive left behind in the plant premises was the genesis for the cyber infection leading to the most well-known incident in the infamous history of cyber security. Ralph Langner, a German researcher, is credited to have unravelled this whole plot in a methodical manner, taking more than a year, post the incident being made known to the world. While it was all brought to the public domain, but now again it seems that some elements of this whole exercise are shrouded in mystery. Fresh revelations have once again brought Stuxnet right onto the centre stage.

Dutch newspaper, De Volkskrant conducted a two-year long investigation into Stuxent and has come up startling revelations, yet to be corroborated by a third source. Based on its investigation it claims that a Dutch engineer was recruited by the country’s intelligence services, used a water pump to deploy the now infamous Stuxnet malware in the Iranian nuclear facility. AVID, the Dutch equivalent of CIA, had recruited Erik van Sabben, then a 36-year-old Dutch national working at the heavy transport company in Dubai. He was recruited in 2005 when the US and Israeli counterparts asked for help. He was perfect fit, as he had relevant technical background, he was doing business in Iran and was also married to an Iranian woman.

As luck would have it, Van Sabben passed away in UAE two weeks after the Stuxnet attack as a result of a motorcycle accident. It is believed that Stuxnet was planted on a water pump which Van had installed. Michael Hayden, CIA Chief those days, did agree with De Volkskrant but could not confirm or deny as the information was still classified. Langner, known for his in-depth analysis of Stuxnet and findings thereof, is of the opinion that “a water pump cannot carry a copy of Stuxnet.” It seems for now that the story is not going to die down soon. We will still have to wait for long for the final word to be said.

Sanjay Sahay

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