Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login
Israel silent as Iran hit by computer virus more violent than Stuxnet – report (timesofisrael.com)
196 points by chablent 44 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 80 comments

The title is just a variant on the argumentum ex silentio logical fallacy.

More violent but also more out in the open, where stuxnet was a silent killer. (meaning it was deliberately less violent)

It was pretty violent if you were a centrifuge. More targeted was stuxnet.

I thought it would only slightly tweak the speeds so it would ruin the result. It didn't destroy them.

It did both. Randomly breaking tubes was sure to make people jumpy, and the machines seem haunted.

How can software be “more violent”? How can software that isn’t running directly on a weapons platform be “violent” at all?

If the software physically destroys the hardware that is running it, I'd say that's fairly violent. Stuxnet, the virus it's being compared to, destroyed the centrifuges it infected. Sort of the issue with the "more violent" explanation so far is that Iran isn't saying how bad the damage is, and it sounds like this new virus might be hitting critical infrastructure like power systems, but no one will say anything beyond "systems are being attacked".

Medical technology: pacemakers, drug infusion pumps, digital x-ray and MRI systems ("nope, no lesions on your lungs").

Industrial materials fab: change raw materials in critical alloy mixtures; mess with annealing time/temperature recipes; dial down forces in component proof tests ("oops! Why did that turbine rotor blade separate?").

Lots of opportunities for malware to be nasty outside of weapons systems.

Turning off or modifying automated systems in any large device - buses, cars, airplanes, centrifuges, stadium roofs - would have potential for massive violence/destruction.

tesla.brakes = false

while(true) tesla.speed++

So is there any indication yet what the virus did / is doing?

but whats the story? some guy again picked an unknown usb stick en route to his job at super secret nuclear facility and just plugged it into a nuclear supervising computer again to see the contents?

To say stuxnet was akin to someone plugging a USB drive in really downplays how serious the operation surrounding stuxnet was.

Iran was having their nuclear scientists assassinated in the streets at the time stuxnet was being infiltrated into the nuclear facilities.

I have a feeling that when you have that level of resources being dedicated to a mission, your not hinging your whole plan on someone picking up a random usb and plugging it in.

Israel Mossad used remotely detonated magnetically attached bombs attached to the victim's car door while they were stuck in traffic using a motorcycle drive-by attack. That's unusual outside of the Middle East. In most other countries they trigger remote exploits (electronic and physical) in target vehicles which lead to terrible crashes.

Soon they'll just have to hack your Tesla or autonomous car. Hello tree!

If any of this thread is remotely true, hacking a Tesla would be child’s play for a state level actor. https://twitter.com/atomicthumbs/status/1032939617404645376?...

Networked cars are a terrible thing to have driving about, they're just so apt to join the internet of vulnerable things.

Not after I have a Faraday cage painted onto mine. Inconvenient? Sure, but totally worth.

How is your autonomous car going to navigate without GPS signals?

random walk

> In most other countries they trigger remote exploits (electronic and physical) in target vehicles which lead to terrible crashes.

Citation please! I’ve never heard of this actually being done IRL - only on CSI type shows. Where/when/who has actually used this technique in a killing? It seems overly complex and prone to suboptimal outcomes (the vast majority of car crashes only result in minor injuries).

This isn't a citation, but if you're interested in the topic and learning more about to what length Israel will go to assassinate perceived enemies, I recommend "Rise and Kill First" by Ronen Bergman



I actually regret using that word - I'll leave it so your reply has context. Perception is always a factor in determining one's enemies or allies - Israel is no exception.

That's how they got Diana. </tinfoil>

Fayed was born in Alexandria, Egypt and was the eldest son of the Egyptian billionaire Mohamed Al-Fayed, former owner of Harrods department store. His father was also the former owner of Fulham Football Club and the Hôtel Ritz Paris. Fayed's mother was the Saudi Arabian author Samira Khashoggi; her father was Dr Muhammad Khashoggi, who was of Turkish descent, and brother to the billionaire arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi.

Not really a conspiracy:


Trump is involved with these people as well:


Stuxnet was extremely complicated!

More info: https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-most-sophisticated-piece-o...

This driver was digitally signed by Realtek, which means that the authors of the worm were somehow able to break into the most secure location in a huge Taiwanese company, and steal the most secret key that this company owns, without Realtek finding out about it.

In addition to everything else it’s doing, the worm is now playing us back a 21-second data recording on our computer screens that it captured when the centrifuges were working normally.

Wow, that was a fascinating read. The amount of resources and the level of sophistication is mind boggling. Somehow it feels like the finest brains alive are either working on making more deadlier weapons or on thwarting other people's efforts in making them.

The Realtek credentials were stolen long ago+. It's puzzling why they're still being honored.

+ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stuxnet#Windows_infection

It is but Stuxnet is in the wrong Quora "What is the most sophisticated piece of software/code ever written?" Stuxnet is superb and complicated BUT only because it had several nation states behind it and that data was used by its creators. Nation states have essentially unlimited money and other ways that no one can match (sharing of info, freeing of spies, letting you get away with murder, $100m in a bank account, new identity etc etc.)

I am not convinced that Stuxnet is more complicated than, say Excel, Windows, Android or a hedge fund's trading platform.

Complicated and sophisticated are not synonyms.

For those who haven't watch 'Star Trek Into Darkness' in awhile, go watch it again and note how the guy walks into the ultra secure facility and plugs in Khan's thumb-drive. That's how it goes down when shit gets real.

Thank you. Down voters just did me a huge favor. I'm done contributing here.

> Details about the supposed new attack are superficial at the moment, as there are no details about the supposed attack, the damage it caused or its targets.

So... not much of a story at the moment. Iran claimed its under attack by a "Stuxnet-like" virus.

Doesn't seem like there are any other significant details beyond that. It's not even clear that the target was nuclear centrifuges this time.

“Some guy” is probably an employee of the facility who knew perfectly well the USB key that he was probably given, not at random, is not innocuous.

I highly recommend reading the book "Countdown to Zero Day". Stuxnet was incredibly sophisticated and explicitly targeted at Iranian nuclear enrichment facilities.


The documentary on it is also excellent.

FU money and exfiltration to USA. Kids go to US colleges and live happily, ever after. Just so he doesn't insulted :) mention that Iran could be better without the mullahs.

No doubt, USA already has the list of employees and knows their weak points.

Or maybe a supply chain man-in-the-middle attack.

Be careful or you’ll end up as Bloomberg’s next source!

OT this content was posted by a user who registered just 3 days ago.

user: chablent

created: 3 days ago

karma: 524

He has what looks like a bot running posting articles from major new sources about 1 per hour. A couple of those articles did well on HN and those got him the Karma. Nice Karma gaming.

how is it possible to submit so many news stories, like 10 a day. The "posting too fast" didn't kick in?

Browse new, you'll see the same submitters over and over again. Create a system and people will game it.

Wouldn't be surprised if they are sold or used ideologically to sway opinion. The internet once prospered and thrived on anonymity but feel that sentiment is shifting back towards integrity and longstanding handles. Perhaps there's a way to do this still pseudonymously with zero knowledge proofs, though likely will be yet another system capable of being gamed.


Please leave the 'Russian shill' accusations to Twitter.

You'd have to have a pretty low opinion of Russian intelligence services if you didn't think they weren't keeping a tab open for this site.

"Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain"

Have noticed this, too. A particularly flagrant example:


Flagged to oblivion but if you've been following recent events you can probably make a pretty good guess as to the article. (Hint: NY Times)

maybe dang would know?

No need to guess. The code is public, and (judging by firsthand experience) they seem to be using a similar if not identical version: https://github.com/arclanguage/anarki/blob/f01d3f9c661eed055...

New users can submit up to 2 stories every 3 hours. Bad users can submit up to 1 story every 3 hours.

Looks like the bot is submitting at precisely that limit, but the timestamps aren't quite accurate enough. Some interested user could check the API to get the full times.

I wish there were some way to contact the bot author. I want to see the code. It's no small feat to write an effective bot.

That's quite a lot. For a site with a single feed that <50 articles surface on every day, one would think one story a day would be more than sufficient for new users.

I think zero stories for new users until 100 karma would be better. It is going to be almost impossible to build 100 karma through comments with automation.

By allowing new users to submit stories, they can build up enough karma to downvote all through automation. 1 a day would just slow the process but not stop the spammers.

Someone might just have as super-cool story...that's different. But one every 48 hours unless that story or user received x karma.

A story every few hours is ridiculous for any user, let alone new users.

Throwaway accounts for example, I might not want my employer linking my user with a given story that I post

so submit one....

Eh, I think I disagree. If a story is good for HN, it doesn't matter where it came from or who posted it, or whether it was a bot. That fact is true independently of any other consideration.

Espionage is one thing. But isn't targeted cyberattacks on another nation's facilities and infrastructure an act of war?

Anyone know if there are any international law covering cyberattacks?

By any reasonable definition of "state of war", a state of war exists between Israel and Iran and has for a long time. The only reason it's not official is that since 1979 Iran has not recognized the existence of Israel at all, and hence can't officially declare war on an entity which it claims does not exist.

Israel's war record also has to give Iran pause - Israel does not fuck around. The 6 day war embarrassed a ton of leaders in that part of the world.

Iran is far enough away from Israel that it would be difficult for Israel to actually project power there. The distance from Tiberias (northeast of Israel) to Ahvaz (southwest Iran) is ~780 miles. If you go to Tehran instead of Ahvaz, it's 930 miles. An F-16 has a combat radius of 340 miles. An F-15 can do ~1000 miles. An F-35 has a combat radius of ~700 miles. You can do mid-air refueling, but doing it at scale in a situation like the 6-day war is not simple either. As far as I know, Israel does not operate dedicated long-range bombers.

It's easy for people in the US to forget the effects of distance like this, because the US approach to this situation would involve parking a carrier group or three (which Israel doesn't have) off Iran's coast in the Persian Gulf, using those to suppress air defenses, and then using those and strategic bombers (which Israel also doesn't have) to strike ground targets.

Or put another way, fear of Israel's military sure hasn't prevented Iran funding Hezbollah, which would generally be considered an act of war in itself given that Hezbollah then uses those funds to fire rockets and artillery into Israel.

Landgrabbing is always unexpected

If cyberattacks counted, the US would be at war with China and Russia. I bet there will be a treaty eventually, and I have some fears on what secondary restriction it will place on the internet.

A treaty that is unenforceable (ie no one can observe the outcome) is as good as no treaty. You can't really attribute most cyberattacks and if you automatically assume it is country x, then country y in conflict with country x will rush into attacking you.

Oh, they could make it enforceable, but I don't think anyone would really like the resulting version of the internet except bureaucrats who crave power over all things.

You see some politicians mention that all software developers should be licensed, and we see companies requiring signed code to allow it to run on platforms. Licenses for servers happen in some places. Its all little step, but a few more gets you a locked and licensed computing network.

And the Five Eyes would be at war with their own citizens?

I'll bet there are a few companies running private wars too.

On that track, if my server logs are an indication there are quite a few folks running private wars.

If you are interested in this check out the book The perfect weapon. The author goes over this idea pretty indepth. Short answer no.


Aside from the questions of whether Israel and Iran are already at war or incapable of becoming at war, it's worth noting there's no real clarity around what defines an 'act of war' in the first place.

Historically, 'casus belli' just describes an action which justifies a state of war. Nations can cite whatever they want, although self-defense is generally the most defensible basis. In that sense it's a permissive concept; it does not force a country to become "at war". So something like the shooting down of a warplane (e.g. a Russian plane over Syria, by Turkey) is clearly inter-military violence, but the injured party can (and did) elect not to declare war. As far as Iran's response here, that's probably the extent of the matter: they don't want to use this as casus belli, so they won't.

More recently, I know of three other definitions for an "act of war" which are potentially relevant.

1. Most nations have laws which use the term, for instance to prohibit citizens from doing business with adversaries. These are often quite narrow - the US definition (18 U.S. Code § 2331 4) would go unmet by this incident because it was not armed conflict. I don't know the Iranian or Israeli internal definitions, but with the array of sanctions and other boundaries already in place they're probably irrelevant. (And internally at least, Iran can't actually be at war with something it doesn't acknowledge to be a state.)

2. The United Nations Charter, since both Iran and Israel are signatories. This relies on the term 'force', not acts of war, and is deeply unclear about what constitutes force. Resolution 2625 states "armed intervention and all other forms of interference or attempted threats against the personality of the State or against its political, economic and cultural elements, are in violation of international law".

Reading narrowly, this is pretty clearly "other interference against its economic elements", but the next clause of that resolution would render most sanctions, economic espionage, and other common practices illegal acts of war and so it's widely ignored. There have been rumblings about the status of cyberattacks, but there's definitely no settled law on that matter yet.

3. The Hague and Geneva Conventions, since both are signatories. It could constitute an act of war creating wartime-status obligations to personnel or an undeclared act of war violating the "Convention relative to the Opening of Hostilities".

As far as the declaration statute, I don't see any sign of what constitutes a "state of war", and I suspect that in 1907 it was considered obvious. As far as "prisoner of war" status and other restrictions like lawful surrender, the people spreading the exploit are debatably governed if they're members of a military, but not otherwise governed as a militia or volunteer corps.


Given all that, I'm reasonably sure there's no international law yet governing cyberattacks. Attacks which have death tolls or directly interact with weaponry could presumably be governed by their consequences, in the same way that non-electronic sabotage would. But in terms of economic and other nonviolent consequences, it's an open question.

The UNC could certainly be used to rule them acts of war in the same sense that smashing up factories or killing crops would be, but such an interpretation could potentially also apply to stealing schematics or wiretapping trade delegations, which have historically not been considered acts of war.

There are some pretty good analyses of this question out there, but most end up at "we dunno yet". It'll probably be a question up for debate and further treaties within the next decade or so, and the result will likely be a function of how such attacks have been used so far.

Iran has publicly said they want to wipe Israel off the map. The fact that this doesn’t bother you is telling.

Washington Post gives this claim "one Pinocchio". [1]

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/post/did-a...

Well, according to Politifact [1]

They did write it on a ballistic missile.

Plenty of other quotes and video of similar threats.

[1] https://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2017/feb...

>"It is striking to me that Prime Minister Netanyahu must go back to an Iranian report of a March 2016 ballistic missile test to make his point about malign Iranian intentions," said Greg Thielmann, a former foreign service officer and Senate Intelligence Committee staffer who is now a board member at the Arms Control Association.

>He suggested that the Hebrew lettering may have been "a one-time event, and not necessarily authorized in Tehran." The botching of the text may suggest that the gambit was ad-hoc "sloganeering" by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, "rather than an explicit policy dictated from the top," Thielmann said.

From your link.

Similar minor incidents in history have caused broader wars.

NotANaN 43 days ago [flagged]

Guessing that Israel feels (or was explicitly told to be) unleashed to act against Iran by the Trump administration after Bolton entered.

How do you explain Stuxnet?

Based on?

Official US policy against Iran is that they should suffer sanctions despite adhering to the treaty that got them lifted. Trump alsomoved the embassy, discarding all the policy against itfor no good reason.

That Trump would tell bibi to go town if he wants to is extremely plausible, it’s pretty weird to question that.

Assuming these were already airgapped. I wonder if this could have been prevented with a 10 cent glue stick for USB ports.

Too bad the us didn't stay in the Obama negotiated P5+1 nuclear agreement.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact