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US and Israel created Stuxnet, lost control of it (arstechnica.com)
650 points by fpp on June 1, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 310 comments

"[Obama] repeatedly expressed concerns that any American acknowledgment that it was using cyberweapons—even under the most careful and limited circumstances—could enable other countries, terrorists or hackers to justify their own attacks. “We discussed the irony, more than once,” one of his aides said."

"Irony" is the wrong word. It's "hypocrisy".

Welcome to politics. Syria, currently best known for massacring their own citizens, chaired the UN human rights council a few years ago.

International politics is always going to consist of covert actions on one hand coupled with righteous moral statements on the other. See, for example, the USSR talking about protecting the eastern bloc from western imperialist exploitation by, well, dominating and exploiting their countries.

Meanwhile, I'm sure we'll hear from Republicans that this is a case of Obama's flawed moral leadership, in between insisting that we bomb Iran immediately.

At the end of the day, it's about results. The people who released stuxnet presumably think it makes a war less likely by postponing a confrontation with a nuclear Iran. They might be wrong but they were doing what they thought would lead to the best outcome.

>exploiting their countries.

any evidence for that? In my understanding the USSR was dominating eastern bloc countries, hindering their democratic economic development by enforcing archaic hierarchical undemocratic regime. Exploiting? I haven't heard about that. Countries were pretty autonomous in all things unrelated to ideology/politics.

I find it disturbing that so many people are so very willing to ignore or defend the atrocities of communism in the 20th century.

Just after the end of WWII the Soviets adopted a "plunder" policy with regard to occupied Eastern European countries. Forcing them to produce huge quantities of raw materials and industrial goods to be used within the USSR, extracting as much wealth from the beleaguered post-war economies as the US and allies pumped into Western Europe with the Marshall plan. They also set up "state owned" Eastern Block companies such that the USSR maintained majority ownership (up through the mid-1950s).

This pattern continued through the 1950s as the Soviets retained near direct control over Eastern Bloc economies and morphed in the 1960s into COMECON which merely provided political cover for the same sort of plunder policies up until industrial production in Eastern Europe started to become significant in the 1970s.

In October of 1956 the Hungarian people rose up and threw off their violent totalitarian government. One day later Soviet tanks were in the country's capital (in direct violation of the terms of the Warsaw Pact), within the next month 2500 Hungarians were killed and ten times as many were arrested, hundreds of which were deported to gulags in siberia or executed.

In January of 1968 Czechoslovakia elected a reformist government, which instituted many liberalizing reforms. In August Soviet tanks and forces from the USSR and the Warsaw Pact nations invaded, toppled the government, and killed any Czechs or Slovaks who stood in their way (though few were foolhardy enough to throw themselves against an army of 2,000 tanks and 200,000 soldiers).

The formalization of Eastern Bloc countries as effective satellite states of the USSR came about with the codification of the Brezhnev Doctrine in the 1960s, though it only legalized the status quo.





I feel like I harp on this a lot, but a quick reminder: that's not communism. I know there isn't really a better name for the ideology/policies of the USSR (and other "communist" states) but I think it's worth (repeatedly) pointing out the huge and longstanding misnomer, since they have very few and very tenuous and/or butchered connections to any philosophy of Marx.

These are not atrocities of an ideology, however misinterpreted, these are atrocities of people and of a state.

Which country whose ideology was officially Communist is or was least bad for its people?

I'm not a scholar of ex(communist) states but I'm thinking either Cuba or the former Yugoslavia. I am not aware of any attempt to bring communism into practice that could be called a humanitarian success. The other totalitarianism isn't exactly great either but it at least seems less murderous internally.

If I believed all politicians were power hungry amoral bastards then this wouldn't be that strong of evidence against communism but depressingly enough they're mostly sincere[0]. Communism appears to be a wonderful system for social insects. Humans, not so much.

[0] It would be extremely surprising if they didn't show the same over representation of psychopaths as corporate executives but that still leaves 24 out of 25 politicians as moral creatures.

I'm guessing that Stalinism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stalinism) is the term your looking for.

From your link: "Initially, COMECON served as cover for the Soviet taking of materials and equipment from the rest of the Eastern Bloc, but the balance changed when the Soviets became net subsidizers of the rest of the Bloc by the 1970s via an exchange of low cost raw materials in return for shoddily manufactured finished goods.[46]"

So it looks like they used eastern bloc resources to restore Soviet Union devastated after the war. Explainable action under their their (enforced) ideology of socialist countries mutual aid etc

Explainable action? I'm lost for words. Also I'm Russian.

Very explainable, if you replace now common mindset of "well being of people, their liberty to participate in market" with mindset of "world revolution, opposition to capitalist, imperialistic powers". Priority of restoration of SU first, as a power house of world revolution, becomes explainable. There was a Cold War going on, you know. Suppression of democratic reforms too - "if people don't want our brand of hierarchical command communism, then they're mistaken, they're not ready, we know better". Governments always say they know what's better for people. Of course "communism" in some far future is better than living a better life today, in eyes of communist government ideologue.

Considering SU later become net subsidizer of Eastern Bloc, and that these countries were in pretty good shape right after SU dissolution, with all the limitations of "socialist economy", one-sided interpretation of history as exploitation, plunder, and atrocities and nothing more, sounds to me extremely stupid and narrow minded. As stupid as "killing his own people" meme. I'm disgusted by people who do moral interpretations of history with today's dominating moral standards. "Let's not forget atrocities of Roman Empire, plunder, enslavement, domination, exploitation of neighboring peoples ." Whole world history is one big atrocity.

Also, people who consider Soviet Union, a primitive oriental despotism, as a communist regime, without quotation marks - have no class.

> do moral interpretations of history with today's dominating moral standards

I cannot upvote this enough. I feel sad when people forget that most of the history has been rewritten to suit newer regimes, newer philosophies. And the practice is still very dominant. Howsoever informed we may try to be about past, especially past that we haven't lived through but heard about in books or media or discussions, we are still aware of only part of the story. The part that survived, the part that dominated. And what is worse, we often tend to classify some leaders as well as their supporters who have failed and then replaced by their antitheses, to have this innate evil - while forgetting that they may very well be not 'evil' in their own morality; and hence ignorance not evilness causes their evil actions.

I appreciate and at least partially agree with your perspective, regardless of the pointless name calling.

Who exactly is defending what the Soviets did? I'm skeptical that there's a pile of people out there who are gungho about what a great job Stalin & co did.

I think dominating a country militarily and installing puppet governments and banning their religion and forcing their children to learn your native language is bad enough. If nothing else, the Eastern Bloc was being exploited for the purpose of providing a land buffer zone against military invasion. I.e., the risk of being a front line battlefield was being exported.

If you're looking for a shipping manifest for raw materials from an EB country to the USSR at prices below free market rates I imagine you could find that too. But to me that's not the primary point.

I think an old East German joke tells the story.

"Indeed we have an even-handed relationship with the Russians. After all, we send them coal and they send us snow in return".

Hypocrisy is deliberately lying about your values. This may be that, but it may also just be a compromising of values. An alcoholic saying that alcohol abuse is bad isn't hypocrisy is the alcoholic truly believes it.

It isn't necessarily hypocrisy. It makes sense for them to be leery of acting without first talking about the limits they believe should be applied to cyberwarfare. A single act may be consistent with many different interpretations, and the United States could easily be blamed if one of their allies committed some heinous act and justified it using a doctrine they extrapolated from Stuxnet and other acts condoned or committed by the United States.

As an analogous example, parents, knowing that many people think in crude categories such as "drugs" and "illegal," would not simply pot in front of their children without explanation. They would not want to discover later that their kids were doing meth or shoplifting and hear, "What are you angry about? You smoked illegal drugs right in front of me. How is this different?" The parents would likely find themselves accused of hypocrisy, by their kids and by others who honestly or disingenuously failed to understand the distinctions the parents drew between smoking pot and doing meth, or smoking pot and shoplifting.

I don't know if the United States has an official stance on the acceptable use of cyberwarfare, but the fact that they chose to leak their involvement in Stuxnet rather than openly admit it and justify it suggests that they have no official policy to cite (though it may also be that they don't want to officially acknowledge responsibility for Stuxnet's collateral damage.) If there is no official articulation of policy, we really are setting unpredictable precedents that are likely to implicate us in future disasters.

Also I am not at all sure that terrorists are going to care whether the US says they have used weapons like this. I would suggest that "we are worried about cybersecurity" is a much larger green light than "we are using cyberweapons."

I am not aware of the last time a terrorist attacked us with an F-15 or a B-2.....

The much larger issue though is that by releasing Stuxnet, the government had to release tools that terrorists could use into the wild. These can then be reverse compiled, hacked, and turned against us. That's bad news. It would be like leaving behind a large number of Predators or something in terrorist hands.

Actually it is worse than that. With actual airplanes, you have maintenance issues and costs, and the fact is that you have limited quantity and little ability to produce more. With Stuxnet, these limits are not there.

At one point special warfare was also considered taboo, now it is the U.S.'s bread and butter. Unfortunately while our nation recognized the need to develop our black ops capabilities early on, we are a bit late to the party when it comes to cyber-warfare.

When it comes to international conflict, right and wrong are often subjective. Of course someone who is hostile towards the west is going to feel justified about his actions. If he didn't feel justified, he wouldn't maintain those beliefs. Unfortunately for him, feeling justified doesn't make you correct. While many countries dislike some of the United States' actions (often rightfully), almost the entire world hates everything about violent extremists.

If the President thinks that a cyber-attack will prevent a war, (that would be far more costly to both sides than the ones we are already in) it would be immoral for him not to take action. I don't like many of the things that Obama does, (or any politician) but he strikes me as a person who really does want to do the right thing and prevent the needless loss of life.

> Unfortunately while our nation recognized the need to develop our black ops capabilities early on, we are a bit late to the party when it comes to cyber-warfare.

Out of curiosity, what makes you say this?

If there's one good example that our military underestimated the importance of cyber-security until recently, it is that the U.S. Army Cyber Command was just established in 2009. Before this happened, there was definitely work being done by the Army in this field, but it wasn't the large-scale, coordinated effort that such an important threat demands.

In the years leading up to the creation of the Cyber Command, there were many field grade officers who expressed the need for such a unit. These officers suggested that the military needed some sort of presence in cyberspace, mostly to ensure the safety of U.S. networks and partly to enable us to effectively respond to cyber-attacks around the world.

This article has a lot of good information about CYBERCOM.


I hope you realize that NSA, perhaps the biggest and most capable information security organizations in the world has always been under the Pentagon. It's absurd to suggest the US attention to data security started with the establishment of "Cyber Command".

My personal view is that it's a dangerous experiment in ineptitude allow the Pentagon to "defend in cyberspace" US networks. Most of the people who are tossing around such terms don't have the slightest clue what they're talking about.

It's one thing to say we're going to let the Pentagon use its procurement bucks to have defense contractors weaponize exploits in case the day arrives. But it's highly debatable whether allowing the military to get involved in US domestic networks is even legal.

Their ability to defend even their own networks for less than 10x the cost of the private sector is still an open question, much less whether or not they can defend anything having a wide diversity of traffic such as today's business and consumer internet.

I didn't say that the creation of CYBERCOM marked the beginning of U.S. involvement in cyberspace. It was created just a few years ago, because our government's leadership felt that we needed to do far more than we have been. The NSA is very good at what they do, but unless they expand dramatically, other organizations are going to have to be formed.

That's fine. I'd just like to disagree with the idea that the US was late to this party. If anything the US has been one of a few countries leading the world into this "cyber arms" race, albeit mostly covertly until recent years.

Taboo? Do you have a reference for that? I was always under the impression that the initial resistance to SO was from traditional generals in the pentagon who came up through the infantry and armored ranks...

You are correct. There was a lot of resistance from generals who were well versed in conventional warfare. Many of them thought that guerrilla warfare was either cowardly or somehow below us.

Richard Marcenko, the founder of the now defunct SEAL Team 6 (got transformed into the Developmental Warfare Group) discusses the attitudes he encountered throughout his navy career in some of his earlier novels. (he does write fiction now, but some of his earlier works were based on his life.) I know that he's an extremely controversial figure and that his writing ability is questionable, but he was both a SEAL and an officer at a time when the military was just starting to realize how significant a role that guerrilla warfare would play in future conflicts.

A lot of it varies from service to service. The Marine Corps was the last to develop special ops teams, under the doctrine that all Marines were capable of special operations. The smallest integrated Marine units, the MEU's, are all certified as "special operations capable", and are indeed capable of covert, small-unit action. One of the missions they're often tasked with is TRAP, "Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel". It was a Marine TRAP team that rescued downed F-16 pilot Scott O'Grady during the Bosnian war, for instance.

Ironically, it was the Marines who actually had some of the earlier predecessors to black ops, in the form of the Raider Battalions in the Second World War. One of the Raider Battalions was commanded by FDR's son, which protected the Raiders from political interference, at least until FDR died.

It's not exactly publicized, but my dad told me that the first Raider Battalion, at least, was even organized as a Maoist guerrilla unit; Samuel B. Griffith, its second commander, had previously served in China and spent a great deal of time with Mao. Among other things, the unit was run democratically.t My dad was acquainted with Griffith for a time, and I don't know how much of this is public information, or even accurate, but it's what he told me.

The reason that the Marines are considered to have developed a spec ops teams last is largely due to the military having a different definition of special operations than the average person.

To an average person like me (and I was a Soldier) when I think of special forces, I consider pretty much anyone who went to one of the military's most elite schools. The SEALS, Force Recon, and the actual U.S. Army Special Forces all seem to have a similar level of ability. Each of these groups has taken the absolute best soldiers that could be found and trained them to an extreme degree.

When the government thinks of special forces, they think of organizations that fall under the Special Operations Command. When the U.S. wanted Force Recon to fall under SOCOM, the commandant said "no." This is part of the reason that the Marine Corps didn't officially have special forces until recently.

The problem with SOCOM, and why Force Recon didn't fit in, is that Force Recon was always meant to perform a specific mission within the context of a Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF), not be used as a black-ops team on a detached mission. Which is incidentally why the Marines still have them, even though the Marines have teams assigned to SOCOM now.

Given your knowledge of Marcinko's reputation I'm surprised you used him as your reference material. When Marcinko formed ST6 he selected the first members from an already existing specwar community. The same thing can be said for Beckwith and the creation of SFOD-D which predated ST6.

I was using him as a reference because he experienced first hand the discrimination that the special operations community faced from many high ranking officers and even politicians.

I wasn't trying to say that the SEALS were the first SF unit, I guess I wasn't very clear. Most of the SF type units were around in some form well before the Vietnam War. Even the SEALS were around in the 40's, they just weren't called SEALS yet.

Not when you honestly believe in American Exceptionalism

In a 2009 interview, Obama said, "I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism." That is pretty mild support for American Exceptionalism, as defined by the GOP.

On the contrary, hypocrisy is all about believing that "when I do it it's not wrong". Decrying something when you are ashamed that you secretly do it yourself is not hypocrisy, because it doesn't involve a double standard.

Isn't exceptionalism just a code word for hypocrisy?

Perhaps, but it's still useful as a distinct term because it refers to the body of argument used to justify it.

Countries or terrorist groups rarely justify military action (even if it's cyberwarfare). At best, they explain it.

On the contrary--they often go to great lengths to justify it. The German invasions of Denmark, Norway, Belgium, and the Netherlands were deemed protective occupations, in order to prevent the Allies from invading them. The Gulf War was justified by a UN resolution. You can find some attempt, however feeble, to justify any recent military action.

That's the point. Each and every military action creates an attempt to justify it. It usually fails at both justifying it and explaining the actual reasons behind it.

I don't think irony and hypocrisy need to enter into it; really there is just a concern of escalation, or even a sort of "arms race" (although it would differ from a real arms race in many key respects).

It's what Chomsky calls "asserting the opposite," a psychological method to counter opposition. Essentially if "you assert opposite, it eliminates mountains of evidence" toward your own actions.

"Hypocrisy" is the wrong word. It's "(geo)politics".

Every nation does it.

Ok, fine, it's hypocritical. There are worse things in the world than hypocrisy. I smoke cigarettes, yet I would advise others not to. I may be a hypocrit, but I'm not wrong. The two are not mutually exclusive.

It's a new cold war. Eventually Iran will write viruses in return to attack US power grid.

All fun and games until Homeland Security Theater is given new powers to raid your home and shoot your dog if they think your computer is being used as part of a botnet.

This isn't nearly as terrifying as the Cold War with the USSR. We're not threatened with nuclear war, nor having the near misses that could trigger it (Cuban missile crisis). No one is building bomb shelters in their backyards, because right now the balance of power is very much in the United States' favor.

Could things get there with another nuclear enabled power like China? Maybe, in time. Iran is not an existential threat to the US, not anywhere close to what the Soviets were. The Israelis see things differently I'm sure, but this is far from the situation in 60s - 80s.

Just like the TSA it's our government that is far more terrifying than any imaginary threat they are supposedly protecting us against.

And don't underestimate the Iranian government, they are not a third-world country like some people imagine out of ignorance - I really feel sorry for the Iranian people getting caught up in this mess.

> imaginary threat

Err... while I'm not stepping in to defend the TSA, I think that to call the threat imaginary ignores recent history.

While the threat of terrorism is not imaginary, it is certainly negligible compared to other threats.

The physical terrorism threat is negligible. The generalized cheap-attack-with-disproportionate-damage threat I can't in good conscience write off quite so readily. Biological attacks are still scarily possible, and if we start talking computer viruses it becomes scarier again. Recall Stuxnet didn't merely inconvenience people, it destroyed hardware. If someone manages to write a virus that, say, destroys a significant number of power plant turbines, we're talking about a disaster that does in fact start killing people in addition to general inconvenience. Electricity really really is one of the lifebloods of civilization, and while the phrase lifeblood is obvious not literal it's more literal than it may appear on first glance. Cut it off and real people will really be hurt and killed.

Personally I'd rate this class of threat comfortably above asteroid impact or solar flare-type disaster.

Terrorist victims in 2001: 3,000

Murder victims in 2001: 15,000

Car collision fatalities in 2001: 42,000

Cancer deaths in 2001: 550,000

The only thing that's disproportionate is how we react to terrorism.

(statistics are for United States)

That's a canned knee-jerk response, not one that shows you read my message. That's not relevant data to the question of what future bioattacks or computer attacks are possible... and note my continued avoidance of the term "terrorism". Once an attack is launched the source isn't very relevant. Failing to secure our infrastructure because "terrorism isn't something to be afraid of" is still a stupid move because it leaves you open to not-terrorism just as much.

My original response was more thoughtful, but I felt that summed up my point better.

The question is not what's possible, but what's likely and how much it will cost. If the likelihood is low and the cost is small, then you cannot justify extravagant preparation.

An attack against civilian infrastructure is terrorism no matter who does it. It may be a singular event, part of a chain of attacks, or a prelude to a full-scale military offensive. It's still terrorism, because it terrorizes the civilian population.

Irrational fear should not dictate our budget priorities. We can certainly take some precautions, and develop contingency plans. But at the end of the day, if someone is capable and determined enough, it's going to happen, regardless of how many much money and how many contractors and consultants we throw at the problem. The best we can do is take it in stride and rebuild.

You continue to not really be thinking about my point, insisting on framing it in a pre-canned terrorism argument. I am explicitly talking about high-cost events, and at best you can call the probability unknown, for things like a biological attack or a computer attack that perhaps even accidentally ends up taking out some very important part of the infrastructure. We already have good reasons to be concerned that a high-cost biological attack could be launched out of someone's literal garage, and it is not an irrational fear; we have plausible plans on how it could be done. Indeed I'd argue that being unconcerned about it is irrational, and being unconcerned about it because so far "terrorists", a small subset of the group of people I'm concerned about, have only managed to "fly planes into a couple of buildings". It's basically a non-sequitur argument, because a great deal of the point I'm making is that is only a small part of the total interesting threat profile.

What is your point then, exactly?

Are you arguing that there are eventualities which could be disastrous, and they need not be the product of willful malice? Then of course I agree with you.

Is your point that we can and should take all possible precautions against such eventualities, regardless of cost? That's where I take disagreement. We are, after all, arguing in the context of a larger discussion here.

Our efforts at preparedness must be in proportion to the risk, which is derived from both the potential cost and our best estimate of the likelihood. Bad things happen; it's terrible, it sucks, but it's unavoidable. We can and will bankrupt ourselves trying to swat every fly. It doesn't matter that a disaster could be catastrophic if we create a catastrophe by trying to avert every disaster.

"We already have good reasons to be concerned that a high-cost biological attack could be launched out of someone's literal garage, and it is not an irrational fear."

It's easy for people to just pick up a knife at a restaurant and stab someone too. People don't spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about this though because it just doesn't happen that often.

But the problem is that it ends up being a self-fulfilled prophecy.

People without any part in the original conflict is getting affected by it and then suddenly they are part of it.

That is the root of problems here.

Terrorist victims in 2001: 3,000 ... Cancer deaths in 2001: 550,000

I don't think it's fair to the families of the victims, to the people of NYC, or any peaceful, healthy person who has that threat in the back of their mind when minding their own business in public, to equate a cancer death with a death caused by a crumbling skyscraper, a burning skyscraper, or jumping out of a burning, crumbling skyscraper. I know cancer can be just as ruthless and indiscriminate, but it never has struck in such a concentrated, evil manner.

The only thing that's disproportionate is how we react to terrorism.

Are you implying that we shouldn't react disproportionately?

That's not to say I agree with the current level of disproportionateness or that we shouldn't be spending billions of public dollars combatting a disease that's claiming more and more people because they are now living long enough to acquire it.

Neither is any less dead than the other. The cause matters only to the living. My entire point is that fear of the threat in the back of your mind is entirely irrational. You're much more likely to die of cancer, and even then, you're not very likely to die at all.

The Stalin quote about "a single death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic" comes to mind here. I understand your point that terrorism is the result of direct, willful action by people with malicious intent, whereas cancer is just a force of nature. But you have no real control over either, so why make such a big deal of the former?

But you have no real control over either, so why make such a big deal of the former?

Not true. Even thought they need to be much smarter about it, people with guns, whom our tax dollars fund and who's power and number I fear and would like to limit, can reduce the likelihood of a terrorist ruining my life. Scientists can do the same for cancer, but unfortunately, we have more people who can fight terrorism that who can fight cancer.

We can elect leaders are vote in the marketplace to shift resources one way or the other, or be a better cancer or terrorism fighter if we are in those fields. Our individual control might be negligible, but not society's.

You cannot effect much control over a signal that you cannot distinguish from random noise. There are so many factors that affect the likelihood of terrorism, and yet even in a bad year that likelihood is insignificant.

Our ridiculously outsized counterterrorism efforts are akin to putting a shroud around the Earth to block out cosmic background radiation. It would cost more money than we can fathom, and in the end we probably couldn't even measure the benefit. Meanwhile, the radiation you absorb from living near a nuclear plant or an old testing site is orders of magnitude greater, and yet you probably won't ever suffer a harmful effect from it.

My argument isn't that terrorism isn't real, or it isn't a threat. My argument is that it's such an insignificant threat that it fails to justify our existing efforts, nonetheless ever-more-expensive new efforts.

It's equally hard to measure how much of a threat terrorism actually poses. One could easily make the argument that the reason it's perceived to be so little of a threat today is because we've gotten damn good at stopping terrorist plots. See the recently intercepted ALQ documents which describe how good the West has gotten at tracking their movements and foiling their plans.

There have been numerous terrorist attacks in the West since 9/11, in Israel (2002-), Madrid (2004, 2006), London (2005, 2007), and Moscow (2010, 2011).

Also, I grew up with several major terrorist attacks against the United States, in New York (1993), Oklahoma (1997), Africa (1998), against the USS Cole (2000), and finally 9/11.

The death toll from all these incidents barely breaks 4000. More people died last week of cancer.

The former has a large political impact.

How many dissidents a year do you think you need to kill to suppress any opposition?

Targeted acts of terrorism are different than indiscriminate attacks, and a coordinated series of attacks is different than an isolated incident. If the group of potentially affected people is very small, or the number of attacks very large, then the probabilities are drastically increased and a larger response is justified.

"Are you implying that we shouldn't react disproportionately?"

I would say that even when you factor in malicious intent we still react disproportionally, and that this is an inherent problem.

Any individual involved in any security-related field will have to work with the concept of acceptable risk at some point. The damage that terrorists can cause us is not that high compared to the way we victimize ourselves to try to prevent very modest harm.

Our reaction has become comparable to a cytokine storm in reaction to a flu virus, really. That can't be good.

Edit: As a side note, our reaction is such that it allows for what I call "grey-terrorism" vulnerabilities. If we define terrorism to only include acts which are violent or directly dangerous to human life, then leaving cardboard boxes marked "do not touch" in airport restrooms around the nation is not "terrorism." The act is not dangerous to human life. The act is not violent. The act however may be very disruptive to our airports, and it may be very good at inspiring terror.

While I agree that terrorism is given disproportionate attention (add car-collision fatalities in September 2001 as 3300 and it becomes even more useful comparison-wise), I also think it misses the point.

The sorts of terrorism we are afraid of tends to hype fear over risk. Take anthrax for example. Anthrax has been floated as a biological weapon because it's unlikely to spread back and contaminate one's own area, but experiments with weaponized anthrax shows an abysmally low rate of contracting the disease (between 0.1% and 1%) and so it's nearly exclusively a weapon of fear. The very things that make it attractive as a biological weapon also make it ineffective (no person-person transmission for example).

Similarly when we look at nerve gas attacks and the problems and sole case in history, it's clear these are relatively ineffective terrorism-wise. VX may be more effective than Sarin given high-tech dispersal systems but it's also very sensitive to things like droplet size and it's not volatile. Sarin, OTOH, is volatile meaning you can expect it to dissolve in the air and spread that way. Despite that, Aum Shinrikyo would have been more successful using plain old high explosives than nerve gas, and only one of their two nerve gas attacks (the one under entirely ideal circumstances) resulted in any fatalities whatsoever.

Nuclear terrorism could be significant but I suspect you'd have to blow up a small nuke in a major city every ten years to have an effect similar to car crashes nationally. I am sorry but I just don't see that happening so as long as I don't worry about getting behind the wheel I don't give that a second thought either.

All the above being said, cyberwar by non-state actors is different. Traditional terrorist attacks seek to cripple a society or socially disrupt it by killing people and making them afraid. I don't know that this necessarily has to be the intermediate goal of what people call cyber-terrorism (which is why I don't call it that). Instead it can disrupt society and hold it hostage by, well, disrupting it directly.

Imagine if power blackouts and communications infrastructure was disrupted repeatedly. Imagine if we suddenly the power grid were taken down repeatedly. What would be disrupted? How well could we recover? What if telecomunications infrastructure was attacked as well?

People would die but that's not really the goal. Just as in conventional terrorism deaths are a means to an end, sufficiently successful attackers could hold a society hostage by holding the infrastructure hostage.

Terrorist victims in 2001: 3,000

That's not entirely true. There were ~3000 terrorism-related deaths, but the point of terrorism is that it victimizes an entire society by creating a culture of fear and uncertainty. That's what differentiates terrorism from (conventional) murder.

To "create a culture of fear and uncertainty" is certainly the aim of terrorism. However, its effectiveness is dictated by the reaction of the affected population, not by the perpetrators or their actions.

Your fear about computer attacks appears to be a bit sensationalized and a typical knee jerk doomsday reaction. You parrot that "Electricity is the lifeblood of civilization" and that people will die when the power goes off but then seem to forget that blackouts already occur in highly populated areas. Are they a major annoyance? Of course! Do they cause mass death larger then asteroid impacts? Where did you get that idea? Many of our critical facilities have backup generators for a reason. If such an event did occur you'd be damn sure that any damage would be repaired ASAP.

I'm thinking that terrorists would have to do enough damage to warrant full replacement of a number (n = ?) of turbines at a number (m = ?) of plants to do significant, lasting damage in an area (you won't necessarily have a 'back-up turbine' lying around).

Yeah, that's certainly something you can argue in good faith.

I just disliked the "imaginary", which clearly is not true.

The threat is absolutely imaginary. Obviously we have real threats, but that is NOT what the security theater is about. The security theater is mostly about purely imaginary threats. And is in fact worse at stopping the few real threats we have. Original security theater idea is from Bruce Schneier, Wikipedia link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Security_theater

> The threat is absolutely imaginary. Obviously we have real threats

I'm not following you.

Nor am I saying that I think the TSA is a good thing or an appropriate response to the threats.

It is an imaginary large threat based on a real small threat. Wolves that attack Puerto Rican goat herds in the night are real, but the mythological chupacabra based on them is still imaginary.

Can you please cite your example(s)?

I am probably in a minority but I find it more terrifying than the Cold War. At least in the Cold War when the balloon went up everybody died. In this scenario we could be alive and under increasingly onerous affronts on our civil liberties. During the Cold War I might have been called up to attack and kill Soviets, if internal threats were used to install a police state I would be called up to attack and kill my own government. Not a good choice, just ask the folks in the middle east that have been called to do that.

Onerous affronts on civil liberties were occurring during the Cold War too.

I disagree, any attempt to shutdown a significant part of our power grid is terrifying to me. We are at a point in our society that we cannot survive without electricity for a large amount of time. Our economy would shutdown, people will starve as easily obtainable food would go away, certain medicines that keep people alive would spoil, hospitals would shut down, and more. We are so deeply ingrained in having electricity that being forced back to not having it at all would likely kill millions before we could adapt. Especially if the attack caused a semi-permanent power grid failure, such as with an EMP.

Obligatory pointer to One Second After by William R. Forstchen[1], which is a factionalized account of what came out of the US EMP Attack Commission[2].

A power hiccup is not a problem. A systemic power failure is a catastrophe!

1. http://www.onesecondafter.com/ 2. http://EMPCommission.org/

I was thinking of that book but couldn't recall the name of it.

A serious solar storm could damage the power grid more severely than a deliberate attack. If power surges burn out more transformers then it's going to take a long time to bring the grid back in some areas.


As more of the world goes digital and becomes accessible on the public internet, more damage can be done. Attacking power grids, wall street, phone networks etc could very easily cause chaos, whilst it isn't as terrifying as blowing a country to pieces, it's certainly up there.

I think it's more terrifying today. Who would have thought a small place like North Korea kill lots and lots of Americans? It may happen indirectly, via sharing nuke technology with Iran, who is buddy-buddy with Latin American countries, which may, by proxy, end up within striking distance of millions of Americans.

I might have read you wrong, but in case you meant China doesn't have nuclear power, you are mistaken.

I believe the point is, what if a cold war scenario was to happen between China and USA; China being nuclear-equipped

> I believe the point is, what if a cold war scenario was to happen between China and USA; China being nuclear-equipped

It wouldn't matter: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mutually_assured_destruction

Your faith in rational human behavior is much stronger than mine. All it takes is one person making an irrational decision (driven by anger, false sense of security, accident or other) to essentially doom everyone. Death-row is filled with people who made similar decisions (do something even though the consequences of that were dire), all it takes is one person making a similar decision on a bigger scale.

MAD doesn't prevent anything, it at best postpones things and at worst forces both sides to escalate to the point where they feel they can completely destroy the other even given significant losses (i.e. building significantly more bombs than they need to destroy the planet).

…because a virus like Stuxnet could never, ever infect a command a control system for nuclear weapons?

The war itself isn't nearly as terrifying, but somehow the US government is finding it even easier to erode civil liberties now than it ever did during the Cold War.

Even easier now? McCarthy.

>>somehow the US government is finding it even easier to erode civil liberties now than it ever did during the Cold War.

Iran is probably the worst country on the planet when it comes to supporting terrorism.

Consider that democracies in general seems to go crazy when they have active terrorism problems and throw out human rights and the law book. E.g. Germany, USA, Israel, Great Britain, Italy, Spain, etc. (The only exception afaik is India.)

It is logical because the whole point with terror is to scare civilians -- and politicians wants to be elected again. They have to solve terror problems, no matter what.

You don't have to like this, in fact no one except companies earning money doing security likes it. All choices in the real world also has disadvantages, even democracy.

>> Iran is probably the worst country on the planet when it comes to supporting terrorism.

Maybe you want to update your knowledge and find out what is the worst country. You will surprised to see the so calle "best" democracies there.


That link shows what countries are exporting weapons to other countries. This isn't the same as "supporting terrorism," as the parent clearly states. Iran directly supports groups like Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, etc.

>>Iran is probably the worst country on the planet when it comes to supporting terrorism. Really? Sounds like rewriting the history again. Everything I read pointed 911 to pakistin intelligence and Saudis

That's a strawman in that 9/11 isn't the only terrorist attack to happen in the 21st century.

Thanks, now I understood what the gp wrote. :-) I have too little experience with conspiracy theories.

I don't think it's as simple as "Iran is probably the worst country on the planet when it comes to supporting terrorism."

Every powerful country uses violence to advance it's political goals. Every powerful country kills the civilians/citizens of other countries, publicly expressing varying amounts of regret.

The parallel comment by salimmadjd has a point about Pakistan maybe being even worse than Iran, when it comes to terror support (I do doubt that Saudi A as a country is worse).

I might stand corrected, there.

>>Every powerful country kills the civilians/citizens of other countries

To explicitly target civilians is serious because it breaks the laws of war, etc. Democracies generally don't do that.

You are leaving out a rather glaring example. Neither atomic bomb, dropped by the one and only country ever to use them, were dropped on military targets.

The "Democracies" of the world kill many innocent civilians, an order of magnitude in fact than any terrorist related event if you really want to compare the two. Not because the people running them are cartoonishly evil or anything, it simply reflects the massive imbalance of military power between us and whoever the terrorist are supposed to be. It's cloaked in talk of noble intentions and euphemistically referred to as collateral damage. I doubt it makes a difference to the populations affected whether they were an intentional target, or the gps on the smart bomb that just leveled your house glitched out.

"I doubt it makes a difference to the populations affected whether they were an intentional target, or the gps on the smart bomb that just leveled your house glitched out."

You're wrong.

If an airliner (or even a weapon) goes astray and kills my family, I am going to be angry, no doubt about it.

If you've deliberately targeted my family, my anger is going to be greater by several orders of magnitude.

For example, this case that was in the news today:


Suppose the phosphorous did get there through some type of negligence on one of the nearby bases (seems plausible, at least).

Are the woman and her family going to be angry? You bet. Are they going to file a monster lawsuit? Almost certainly. Are they going to declare war on the United States, or (try to) kill a few Marines? Not a chance in hell.

Intent matters.

That, as well as the story linked (which I read carefully), are really bad analogies, for what I think of obvious reasons.

I do think intent can matter at times. Perhaps what I'm more zeroing in on is that idea that I don't find saying you didn't mean to, when you repeatedly kill civilians in very large numbers, such that certain countries have a long history of being on the receiving end of American collateral damage, as an acceptable rational/excuse. (This last part is why I think you're examples are not particularly apt)

Your intent just stops mattering as much when the body count gets to a certain number and you show no signs of changing the behavior.

If I understand right: You argue that no war is worth high collateral damage, even if involved democracies (more or less) follow the laws of war?

How about if a junta relies on that a democracy don't want to pay those prices and creates a situation where blood will flow if they don't get their will?

Arguably, both Japan 1945 and Saddam Hussein are cases of that.

Do you REALLY want dictators to rely on using their own people's suffering to get out of e.g. sanctions or surrender? I doubt it...

Sorry for coming in late. I bother writing these answers because I used to have similar opinions as you before my hair started to fall out. You are a standin for a young berntb, I guess.

I wrote: To explicitly target civilians is serious because it breaks the laws of war

Got the answer: "kill many innocent civilians"

Sigh, it is illegal to target. In a war, civilians will die. My point was that some sides do try to avoid civilan casualities. You didn't argue against my point, you made a spin.

Then, someone isn't morally right by being weaker, so different strength have nothing to do with it.

The nuclear bombs over Japan was 1: a long time ago, 2: a complex choice (e.g. military production in cities, different standards in WWII, the target selection process, etc, etc). You condemn without discussing that.

And so on.

I am sorry, but I must say that you write simplified propaganda. Please increase quality, I want a better HN. :-(

> Sigh, it is illegal to target. In a war, civilians will die. My point was that some sides do try to avoid civilan casualities. You didn't argue against my point, you made a spin.

You place a lot of emphasis on intentionality. While it's an aspect worth considering, I don't find it as nearly as persuasive as you seem to. Many military actions are undertaken knowing full well the result with be civilian causalities, often many, and they are done anyway. Like I said earlier, I don't think your distinction means much to the victims whether they were intentional targets or not.

> The nuclear bombs over Japan was 1: a long time ago,

Uh, not really. It's still within living memory for many. And I think highly pertinent when discussing current issues of nuclear weapons/proliferation.

> 2: a complex choice (e.g. military production in cities, different standards in WWII, the target selection process, etc, etc). You condemn without discussing that.

I didn't get into those aspects in the interest of brevity, and because it veers a bit too off topic. I have considered them all at length, and ultimately find them unconvincing from a moral standpoint. Also notice how any actions taken by our society, or those representing it, immediately become complex and a hundred shades of grey. I'm sure those supporting acts of terrorism make similar rationales. No one buys it in that case, and I think we should be highly skeptical when our leaders seek to justify it in ours.

> I am sorry, but I must say that you write simplified propaganda. Please increase quality, I want a better HN. :-(

I'm not sure how to respond to such hyperbole. Everything I've stated is factually true. You can disagree with my interpretation, or the implicit conclusions I've drawn, but labeling it as simplified propaganda is just silly.

"You place a lot of emphasis on intentionality. While it's an aspect worth considering, I don't find it as nearly as persuasive as you seem to."

You are in a very small minority there. Sorry.

> You are in a very small minority there. Sorry.

I'm fine with that.

One last point worth considering - exactly what is the evidence that it is unintentional? None as far as I can tell other our leaders assert it constantly. And then turn around and do it again, repeatedly. To be clear, I don't think likely almost ever is. There's simply no advantage to it, especially in the modern information age. It's willful disregard in my opinion, which is debatably marginally better, but only marginally.

And the reason I focus on the actions of my society, the US, boils down to partly because it's my home, and there's no where you care more about than your own home. As much as I condemn the actions of Iran, or any other state, there's zero I can do about it. I'm not Iranian. I can, however, affect change here, again in the most powerful state, where it matters most. And the most fundamental principle of any moral framework is that you hold yourself to the same standards you seek to apply to others. More stringent ones, in fact, if you're serious about it.

I'm not American, from my viewpoint you are applying totally different standards to two sides.

A few levels up, I noted that democracies in general tend to go bat-shit crazy at terrorism -- and that it is probably built into the concept of democracy.

It should also be noted that modern democracies don't fight wars with each others, not even the USA. The best solution for making a better world is to work for democracy, especially in places like China which already has started to push a bit against neighbours.

>>You place a lot of emphasis on intentionality.

It is quite unusual in not seeing a difference with killing someone by losing control of your car on the way to hospital with a hurt child -- and shooting an unarmed civilian in the face...

>>Many military actions are undertaken knowing full well the result with be civilian causalities, often many

Most westerners do believe in war laws. Here is an US-critical article. Compare it with e.g. the militias in Iraq or Hezbollah. They shoot artillery at cities, etc.

You see no difference in that -- as was noted, it makes you not only in a minority, but also arguing the same position as people that really murder children point blank. You ignore all other laws too?


>> Then, someone isn't morally right by being weaker, so different strength have nothing to do with it.

They do. In practice someone is often seen as morally right just because he is stronger than his oponent (politicaly or military or in some other way).

> To explicitly target civilians is serious because it breaks the laws of war, etc. Democracies generally don't do that.

Democracies generally try not to publicize doing that. Unless it's done with drones apparently, then you brag about it.

Link to a democracy bragging about intentionally targeting a civilian?

That was a reference to the fact that the election related PR is focused around Obama being tough, having a kill list that he oversees and the successful drone strikes against "militants".

Because the definition of militant explicitly includes civilians in the area surrounding the targets and this was recently highly publicized I tied the two together in a flippant comment.

But I suspect you knew that already and now want to argue about the US use of drones. I'll save you the time, it's terrorism dressed in Orwellian doublespeak and it's pointless to have internet arguments about it.

The war laws are specifying when/how you can risk civilians -- there will always be dead civilians in a war, you are required to try to minimise that.

If you would want to be serious (somehow I doubt it), either (a) argue against the war laws or (b) argue that usa breaks them.

Note that in this case, the terrorists target civilians and seem to use their own civilians as shields. You have no problem with that?

I grew up in London when the IRA were leaving bombs in the trains stations, we didn't have this "throw out rights and laws" nonsense.

And Norway didn't go nuts over the Breivik attack either.

Oh, and are you aware that Israel backed Jundullah, which is a Pakistani AlQaeda?

Command of the facts helps avoid embarrassment.

I'm a little confused.

The UK gov't instituted a number of very harsh laws that severely curtailed the rights of UK citizens.


"This part allowed for the arrest of individuals without a warrant and on reasonable suspicion that they were guilty of an offence under the Act or otherwise "concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism""

(I don't think you should have too high expectations of facts and logic from ucee054, at least re politics. :-) )

Thanks for the link, I didn't know the name of the law. Also, there were some ... cough ... controversial interrogation methods in the 70s, until there was too much human rights criticism.

Anyway, I'm not an expert on the UK and IRA, but believe/assume part of the inspiration for the wonderful T Gilliam movie "Brazil" came from this.

Hello again!

Do you still believe in Jewish conspiracies controlling media?

Or that T-shirts of some individuals prove something about a heterogeneous country -- and are as bad as official policies in another state?!

Ah wait, you refused to touch that "logic" of yours in comment after comment...

Breivik was an individual crazy/nazi/xxx. There are hardly realistic threats for more attacks in Norway. I argued about fear of terror, not mourning after one attack.

(Edit: It is really fun that you condemn Israel for working with unpleasant groups where they have common interests -- all countries with physical threats do similar things -- but previously refused to criticise similar groups.)

And so on, sorry but I can't take you seriously.

Terrorist, the new communist.

No, we are the aggressors here and I remain highly skeptical that Iran is even trying to do develop nuclear weapons. All the news outlets that speak English are biased as hell on this.

If you want real news instead of propaganda you have to watch RT or Al Jazeera. Both of which condemn the US and Israel. Not Iran.

>> Both of which condemn the US and Israel. Not Iran.

you know, its possible that the US, Israel, AND Iran are all doing bad things. just because Iran is not being condemned by a some media organizations does not mean it has any meaningful high ground.

why are you skeptical that iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons? if they weren't, why would they be developing secret enrichment facilities? why would "The IAEA Board of Governors passed a resolution[186] by a vote of 32–2 that expressed "deep and increasing concern" over the possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program" (from wikipedia)?

and more importantly, israel and the us are clearly concerned about iranian nuclear weapons development. it seems as if private intelligence lines up with public intelligence. why are you so confident that everybody else is wrong and you are right?

> "why are you skeptical that iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons?"

Because the only people saying they are doing so are the same people who've been claiming Iran was six to eighteen months away from having a nuclear weapon since the 1980s.

And everyone whose job it is to collect and analyze intelligence on the matter says they aren't.

And I find it pretty hard to believe the US and Israel can simultaneously have sufficient capability to craft and deliver something like StuxNet to affect actual damage to the Iranian nuclear program (to say nothing of the targeted assassinations) yet somehow insufficient capability to make the best estimate on whether or not there's a weapons program.

How could the people who know which homes/cafes/shops frequented by which scientists, working in which labs, running which operating systems, using which software to drive which hardware have a worse intelligence picture than chronic war agitators and political mouthpieces with a track record of being willfully deceived by charlatans and war profiteers?

It is a stone cold, dead in the ground for a decade, crystalline clear FACT that Iran has no nuclear weapon manufacturing program, and no plausible capacity to engage in one in the near future. Period, full stop, end telegram.

Armed with this certainty, you can now begin to answer the rest of your questions for yourself.

[citation needed]

Why are they enriching above power production levels then?

So, I heard the world is flat.

And I heard there's an organization called the IAEA that's unaffiliated with any particular nation-state that's been at the center of this extremely contentious global issue that would agree with exactly what I said, because that's exactly what they're saying, so uh, enjoy your limp sarcasm.

Not having sufficient evidence to prove something is happening is not quite the same thing as proving it isn't happening.

Let me be clear: there is no evidence whatsoever that Iran has nuclear weapons in its possession. There is no evidence whatsoever that Iran has had an organized nuclear weapons development program for the last nine years. There is some evidence that there was a nuclear weapons program prior to 2003.

This is where you start discussing things: with reality and facts. I am insulted that these facts I am offering are being downvoted ten miles deep when hundreds of millions of lives are affected by the outcome of this prove-a-negative "debate".

I don't know why I'm jumping in, but.

Iran is enriching uranium. A lot of it. This is not disputed.

Iran rattles their sabre a lot, and has large domestic oil production, both of those are also undisputed.

... So you're saying you believe their story that they're enriching uranium beyond where it needs to be for nuclear power, just so they can have nuclear power? Even though they already have more oil than they can sell (with sanctions in place)? Why would they do that?

If I were in their place, I'd be going for a nuclear weapon. All of the available evidence points towards their going for a nuclear weapon. If this was just about nuclear energy, why wouldn't they play ball with the international community and save a shitload of money? Nobody costs themselves billions in sanctions in order to lose more millions in energy production by using nuclear instead of burning effectively-free oil.

You're not being downvoted because you're offering "facts", you're being downvoted for offering an unsupported opinion that people don't agree with.

This isn't battle-chat, jumping in is called a conversation. :)

I do not dispute anything you've said: enrichment is happening, Iran's government is adept at aggressive rhetoric, and Iran would be far better off militarily as a nuclear power. It would be rational for them to be one.

But nothing I have said is incorrect or an opinion. They do not have a nuke, they don't have remotely enough infrastructure or capability to get there anytime soon, and their enrichment activities are not resulting in weapons quality product. That multiple nations and media interests are claiming otherwise is unacceptable.

Their energy policy is not of any interest to me. I am interested in ending this war for the sake of peace.

To answer your points in order:

1. Iran's sabre rattling is in response to the outright threats of invasion and/or military strikes by the US/Israel.

2. Iran has oil which is more economically valuable sold on the market and not burned in local power plants, arguing they have no right to nuclear power is silly.

3. Iran enriches up to 20% for use in medical research reactor that produces isotopes for cancer treatment, the entire process is monitored by the IAEA.

4. "All of the available evidence points towards their going for a nuclear weapon" Which rock have you emerged from and more importantly, was it comfortable there? The CIA itself not to mention some very high ranking retired or otherwise members of Israel's intelligence/military have clearly stated that they don't believe Iran has nukes or is working towards them, for e.g. see: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-17879744 and http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Backchannels/2012/0425/Israel...

5. They do "play ball" with the international community, they don't play ball with the US which has been threatening them for quite a while now even though it's own intelligence agency has said Iran is not pursuing a nuke. Unless of course "International Community" in your lexicon equals the US.

oh and just a piece of advice; you shouldn't jump in if you're going to parrot unsupported claims

>> why would "The IAEA Board of Governors passed a resolution[186] by a vote of 32–2

Because of pressure from Israeli lobby. I follow this very carefully, and most of it is propaganda to provide impunity to Israel for current and future actions.

The fact is, Iranian still unable to refine oil in industrial scale without outside help. Enriching U like any thing else becomes harder as you reach higher purity. US intelligence confirmed there has been no move to militarizing their nuclear technology.

Just curious, isn't refining oil on an industrial scale easier than enriching uranium? Any idea why they are unable to do it?

I just don't think the they have the capability. The country is very nepotistic, so anyone in charge got their position because they knew someone rather than purely on merits. The regime is also rather paranoid, so probably they only promote within their own ranks. Combine all those and you get an ineffective bureaucracy. The best they could hope for is all the hype the western media is giving them. Their ability to grow their enrichment facility has basically halted.

But of course no one in media mentions that, because that goes against the narrative they want to play. That's until we go there and mess everything up, then we'll hear all these data the was there and everyone glossed over. Deja vu Iraq.

So here's the thing with news: it's expensive to run a news operation, and almost impossible to make any money doing it, since there is so much competition. All serious news operations get their funding elsewhere. The BBC is funded by the UK taxpayer (and thus behaves like a branch of the civil service). Reuters is funded by its financial services wing (the point of it is to provide news to traders, who will then trade via Reuters). Al-Jazeera is funded by the local Sheikh. Once you understand this, all the inherent biases become obvious.

Slight correction: The BBC is not funded by taxpayers, but TV license payers, that is to say by people who chose to watch TV. While I won't argue that the BBC doesn't have biases, they aren't as simple as "like a branch of the civil service".

Much of the news is based on propaganda and assumptions.

>No, we are the aggressors here and I remain highly skeptical that Iran is even trying to do develop nuclear weapons.

You may believe that but it doesn't make it so. There was a recent story about how UN inspectors found traces of uranium that were enriched higher than they were supposed to be for civilian purposes.

140kg of uranium was enriched to 20% isotope purity for ostensible use in a medical isotope reactor. That's a civilian purpose.

Weaponized uranium requires 85% isotope purity.

>If you want real news instead of propaganda you have to watch RT or Al Jazeera. Both of which condemn the US and Israel. Not Iran.

You realize that both RT and AJ Arabic are very, very anti-US biased? Especially RT?

They're also state-funded media outlets.

RT by Putin's political structure, Al Jazeera by the Qatari Monarchy.

Having the same uncritical acceptance of what a news outfit prints - but for a different news outfit from the people around - doesn't make you better, just different.

I've always felt that in one way or another, everyone involved is an aggressor. This is the real problem, most won't take a step back to break the cycle.

Any news outlet that openly condemns any nation is biased and is propaganda for whatever agenda. A news agency should be just reporting the news so the viewer can decide their feelings on the nations that the reports are about. Now if Al Jazeera wants to have that stance, then that's fine as long as everyone understands what it is that they are doing.

I have not seen any solid proof that Iran is developing nuclear weapons but I have to assume that they are. It is what nations do, they will build what they feel is necessary to protect their interests. If the nations around them have nuclear weapons then most likely they feel the need to have them as well.

Yes, they bought all those centrifuges to make smoothies. {sarc}

Al Jazeera has always had an anti-US/Israel bent, and they have always made that pretty clear. So, while they might provide useful coverage of the issue, it seems to me who them condemn and who they do not may not be the final, unbiased say in the matter...

Iranian officials repeatedly denied the right of existence of Israel. As a German who at least tries to learn something from history, these are signals i can not ignore. Also, from my point of view, the political system of Israel and the way its society works, is something worth fighting for. Whereas the political system of Iran is something worth fighting against. Ask any Iranian, who is not brainwashed and wants to live a life not controlled by religious nutcases.

Comparing Iran to Nazi Germany? That's a blatant strawman in no need of answering, and for being a German it looks like you learned the wrong lesson; it's ok for someone to victimize others because they were once the victims?

Also, what do you mean by "the political system of Israel and the way it's society works, is something worth fighting for"? A political system & way of life built on the subjugation of a people, stealing their land and turning millions of them into refugees, all justified by a religious belief that their deity gave them that land over 2000 years ago?

Iran's political system has major problems, but at least they didn't emigrate from Europe to kill and drive a people off their own land and claim it as their own cuz the old testament said it was their's..

I think some points of clarification are in order:

I do not compare Iran to Nazi Germany, this would mean to deny the uniqueness of the holocaust in human history.

I meant, as a German I have a moral obligation to support Israel in its fight for existance. If officials of another country talk about wiping Israel from the map, i get suspicious. You don't? I hope not.

To state, that Israels political system is built on the subjugation of a people is really rather shallow and a grave simplification. What you, Wrap, say, sounds like you think that the "palestinian people" (whatever that is or was) are the victims in that case and have done nothing to nobody. That is just wrong and i advise you to read up on the whole story.

Also, from my point of view, the right of existance of Israel is not a topic of discussion anymore. Maybe it was unfortunate to found it where it's been founded after WW2, but that is not something that can be changed now in any sensible way.

And, come on, Wrap, the Jews where "emigrating" from Europe to "kill and drive a people off their own land and claim it as their own"??? That is just ridiculous. Please get an education.

Last point about Irans political system: It does not have "major problems", it is basically run by sad men greedy for power that use religion as means of suppression. The one thing you have to give them, is that Iran/Persia was not a very aggressive country in the past. But that's it. They do oppress their people (~80 million) which you really can not say of Israel. Also they throw threats all around, and I do not think they do this just for funsies.

You sound like a Zionist shill.

Do these media also, like Iran and the Arab world, support Sudan and claim that HRW etc are conspiracies about the mass murder and mass rapes? (It would be easy to continue with examples like this.)

Edit: A karma 33 account. I've probably been trolled.

That's one thing I've never understood. Why is the power grid connected to the Internet? Does it need to be?

The power companies and grid are just like everybody else with a distributed system these days: they have a lot of monitoring data and the cheapest way to backhaul it is over the commodity internet. They find VPNs useful too.

True that a finely crafted USB stick can be used to bridge an air gap, but the power grid needs to not be connected to the interent. It's a protocol layering violation: the internet depends on the power grid. If the power grid also depends on the internet, what happens when one goes down for any length of time? How long would it take to get such a system turned back on again?

The power grid might not be connected to the internet, but, as the article points out, all it takes is someone with a thumb drive to plant malware.

I wouldn't say Iran has the means (a.k.a knowledge) to go ahead and deploy the whole thing: virus development, infiltration, infection of devices within the power grid, and coming out unnoticed.

Way to show your ignorance. Maybe your comment would be interesting if you provided a single reason or fact to back up your claims. Since you don't it sounds like "Hurr, America number one, Iran savages".

Iran has one of the most sophisticated intelligence apparatuses in the world(just ask the CIA what they think about them), and incredibly talented people at their fingertips. Individuals within their organizations also have little oversight on their actions, and large amounts of cash to buy what they can't provide themselves.

Ignore them at your own peril.

Iran showed some capabilities in the hacking of public certificate authorities last year (Comodo, Diginotar).

But there were plenty of noob mistakes made during those attacks too. They simply haven't shown the same type of capabilities to conduct "cyber war" on the scale of the China, Russia, and the US.

I completely agree that they should not be ignored.

No one has said how they fully downed that supposed Stealth Drone.

Likely a GPS spoofing attack. Not difficult but the designers should have protected against it.

The problem is not when a country does that - it's when a loosely organized bunch of normal-looking lunatics all over the world does it.

Moore's Law of Mad Science.

The centrifuges could have been destroyed, and with loss of human life. The system itself was damaged. I wouldn't call this a "cold" war. It is a very real, very physical war(albeit precisely targeted, for now).

The same sort of stuff used to happen during the Cold War with the Soviets [1]. Cold War doesn't mean no loss of life or destruction, just that there aren't two armies going at it on the battlefield.

1. http://www.damninteresting.com/the-farewell-dossier/

The gas pipeline sabotage was just the example I was thinking of. Nice.

"Cold War doesn't mean no loss of life or destruction, just that there aren't two armies going at it on the battlefield"

If so, then "cold" vs. "hot" would be a distinction without a difference.

I don't think the populace is generally educated to think that a "cold war" means "overt attacks on the enemy producing destruction and death." Rather, I think most people think that "cold war" means heightened political/military tension without overt attacks.

To define a "cold war" as one in which no soldiers are used is fallacious: it's a definition by non-essentials. What is relevant to war is whether there is a systematically planned and ongoing violent attacks, not whether soldiers happen to be the means of attack.

The "cold" distinction is that there are no open hostilities. There are hostilities wrapped in plausible deniability, and found through proxy wars (Korea, Vietnam, etc).

"No open hostilities" is a definition by non-essentials. It's fallacious. As I already said and as you failed to address.

Whether certain people happen to know whether there is an attack or who is behind it does not change anything. A state of knowledge does not change the reality: someone is planning and attacking.

If I had a downvote button, I would exercise it on your steadfast refusal to acknowledge that the Cold War is so-called for the absence of direct military conflict between the armies of the two quarreling states.

Wikipedia does not back your definition, as the Wiki entry leaves room for espionage, sabotage, and other actions that one might consider an "attack" but certainly do not force a declaration of war, mobilization of armies, etc.

Firstly, talking about Wiki definitions is the wrong thing to focus on.

Secondly, the Cold War is a misnomer, the US was very much involved in an open confrontation with the Chinese+Soviets in Korea, and to a lesser extent with their proxies in Vietnam later on.

Yes, the Korean war was fought under the aegis of a resolution issued by the UN security council, but it was a 'hot' war, and part of a broad push against Communist influence.

Firstly, I wasn't only talking about Wiki definitions, I had a more basic argument that is being ignored.

Secondly, the Cold War has two possible referents among political scientists (see the link I posted), and the one in question is not the Soviet one.

Now, these are basic facts that you are clearly wrong about. But I will get downvoted anyway. There is something very wrong with you people.

Sabotage is not "indirect", it is very direct, and what's more, it's not even listed on Wikipedia:


You're wrong, but at least you're not a coward.

Surely you don't expect the WP article to list every act that might be compatible with the idea of a "cold war"... I feel you are trolling a bit. Sabotage is still a plausibly deniable act--contrasted with, say, rolling a tank across one's adversary's border.

Stuxnet is a weapon of sabotage, it is fairly direct, and yet it is not the same as an open declaration of war.

I can't believe the level of dishonesty here. The point is obvious: NONE of the acts cited by the WP article were acts of violence.

Did you miss out on Sesame Street? "One of these things are not like the other..."

No I'm not trolling. I am expected to be treated like a troll by the herd here however.

You need to tell the political science, history and foreign policy communities they've been using the term "cold war" wrong for decades!

It's easy to hit the downvote button. It'd show more courage and intelligence to counter with an actual argument.

Incidentally, Wikipedia backs my definition of "cold":


"A cold war or cold warfare is a state of conflict between nations that does not involve direct military action but is pursued primarily through economic and political actions, propaganda, acts of espionage or proxy wars waged by surrogates. The surrogates are typically states that are "satellites" of the conflicting nations, i.e., nations allied to them or under their political influence. Opponents in a cold war will often provide economic or military aid, such as weapons, tactical support or military advisors, to lesser nations involved in conflicts with the opposing country."

I.e., this definition does not include direct planned and executed attacks by the nations involved. Continuing:

"The definition which has now become fixed is of a war waged through indirect conflict."

Indirect means indirect, not directly planting viruses that can destroy your factory.

  > acts of espionage
Are you claiming that stuxnet is not an act of espionage?

  > Indirect means indirect
By your definition, embargoes are 'direct' because they are not levied against proxy nations.

Stuxnet was very clearly sabotage. I can't believe the herd here. Downvote away.

> Rather, I think most people think that "cold war" means heightened political/military tension without overt attacks.

You underestimate 'the populace'. I think most people suspect the 'Cold War' included everything up to outright war. What do you think all the CIA's Memorial Wall [1] signifies anyway? I imagine the Kremlin has something similar.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CIA_Memorial_Wall

The fact that the NYT published this piece is interesting. Assume all details are true. Why did the dog bark rather than choose to be silent? And the sources. Assume all of this is true? Why feed the info to the NYT?

When coupled with recent revelations that Mr. Obama personally approves every killing of militants (for certain strained definitions of that term), the upcoming election springs to mind as a motivation. There may be alternate and contradictory reasons, all of which may be true. Many players, cross-purposes.

This could have remained hidden. Indeterminate. Who benefits from this revelation?

Former election strategist here. This is part of the Obama-Is-Tough roll-out, clearly done with current admin participation. Timed release to follow the "kill list" story and maybe even pre-empt the terrible jobs report.

All the same, it's pretty stunning that the Obama administration would trade its (public) plausible deniability on Stuxnet in order to "look tough" on America's enemies. Playing fast and loose with foreign policy...great plan, guys.

Iran already knew who did it. Everyone did. Why not take credit?

Agreed. I wonder if the people who leaked this information will be held responsible just the same as Thomas Drake & Jeffrey Sterling were/are.

For this to be included in the sudden wave of media coverage on Obama's tough stances on foreign conflicts/terrorism is pretty weighty regardless of motivation.

This is the standard practice of the Obama administration - prosecute only those who leaks don't help the president. Glenn Greenwald at salon.com has been writing about this a lot, here's his piece about stuxnet: http://www.salon.com/2012/06/01/tough_guy_leaking/singleton/

Two reasons are possible.

First, it's over. Stuxnet is out of commission and the CIA/NSA/DOD have all moved on to other programs. It's an election year and this is the kind of strong-on-Iran thing that sticks with a certain segment of voters who may question Obama's foreign policy. That's a cynical view, but Washington is a pretty cynical city.

Second, Ret. Gen. Cartwright is vainglorious. Here, he emerges as a hero.

Likely the person(s) who spoke out now feel a burden lifted from their conscience.

If the information is true, it surprises me that it has stayed hidden for so long.

arstechnica is taking the NY Times article and extrapolating too much. Confirmed? No it's not. It was suspected before, and it still is.

And lost control would imply they could not control what it did to the target, which is incorrect. It did escape to the wild, but that's not really loosing control when it was designed to do nothing harmful on non target machines.

Better to read the original, and the discussion on it: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4052330

Unless David E. Sanger is a new Jayson Blair, I'd say the connection is confirmed, not just suspected. There are no weasel words in the article, meaning both the journalist, his editor, and NYT are putting their reputation at stake. This is as strong as a newspaper story gets.

Is it really true that "someone published in a newspaper said so, therefore we can rely on its being true"? I don't think so.

Hard data, credible sources are what make a strong newspaper story - not a convenient message from someone who would be embarrassed if the story were untrue (something which is at least as hard to disprove in this case as it is to actually prove)

Depends on who "someone" is, what the "newspaper" is, and what was said with "said so".

In this case "someone" is a double Pulitzer Prize winner, and what was said was something of a nature that means the editor in any reputable newspaper will demand hard evidence, i.e. he will have the names of all the sources, and confirmed with at least some of them. If the story is a fraud (possible, look up Jayson Blair), the editor would have to be in on it, and it would be a larger scandal than the story itself, which really just confirms what everybody already suspected.

The story is as good as investigative journalism gets.

And yes, reputation matters a lot in journalism. Jayson Blair is a life coach today.

Reporter's sources need a right to remain anonymous if journalism is to unveil important crimes. While it is not hard evidence, an article by a respected reporter on a respected publication is, normally, to be trusted. He probably has sources, but he can't reveal the in order to protect them. He trusts them enough to bet his reputation on what they say.

It's a sketchy system, but it's the best we can get if we want journalism to remain investigative (though we may already be losing that battle).

The story is indeed confirmed, but the NYTimes write-up is definitely better. Ars does not add much and what they do add is speculation.

So... someone involved is going on the record? Someone who can do interviews on, you know, Fresh Air and say "I was involved in this project"? The fact that the NYT thinks it's true doesn't mean much, particularly since they've been punked so many times.

With politicians involved, this kind of article (i.e. a reputable leak) is more dependable.

Reporters make up unnamed government officials all the time. While I agree the scenario they're painting isn't difficult to believe, calling it "confirmed" is going too far.

I agree, but it's more of a confirmation than whatever might come out of a politician's mouth in public.

I assume if it wasn't true the administration would have held a press conference denouncing it by now.

On the other hand, they say a story can't be considered true until it's received an official denial.

It got discovered, I would call that loosing control.

You're wrong. You can still be in control of a botnet (for example) even if it gets discovered and you can't spell 'losing'.

And you don't understand the different meanings of control. Controlling as in "issuing commands" is different from controlling an event. As far as I know there were no actual commands being given to Stuxnet. It was made for private networks how could there be?

This feels similar to the Megaupload case; America desperately throwing its weight around outside it's borders, with a total disregard for the law. And, just like the Megaupload case, they have fucked up big time.

Why does the American govt. feel it has the right to choose who can become a nuclear power or not anyway?

Because Iran is a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treat (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_Non-Proliferation_Treat...) and their development of Nuclear weapons is thus in violation of international law.

Violation of international law huh...as long as the law doesn't apply to America or Israel I guess:



Oh, that and the fact that America and Israel can't trust anyone but themselves:


No arguments on settlements, but would you point to hard evidence that the US is in violation of NPT? I am getting tired of sourceless claims here.

Article 6 of the NPT obliges the US, and other nuclear powers, to make good faith efforts to reduce, and eventually eliminate, their massive stockpiles of nuclear weapons.

The US is so far away from ever putting any effort into this that Article 6 is all but unknown, and no one even remotely takes it seriously. International law is for nations without the power to effective ignore it.

Would you please respond in addition to (or instead of) just downvoting something you disagree with in order to suppress it? Thank you

I didn't down vote you and I'll show you hard evidence when you show me hard evidence Iran is in violation of the NPT. We don't want any sort of hypocrisy going on around here, right? What the hell, here's some evidence just for kicks:



You are changing the subject a little. The burden of proof for a strong and controversial claim is still on the person making the claim.

I haven't made any claim about what the Iranian revolution is doing, so I don't know why I would be obligated to show you evidence regarding what they are doing. Nobody else really knows what they are doing, that is the nature of intelligence secrets in Iran and everywhere else. If the general public knew, they would not be intelligence secrets any more. That is not license for inferring whatever you want to see.

I'm certainly not carrying water for the Bush administration's attempt to legitimize 'tactical' nukes (which accounts for the entire substance of your links, as far as I can tell). On the contrary, I strongly oppose that idea. But saying stupid, obnoxious, unwise things doesn't amount to a material violation of NPT. If it did, then there would definitely be plenty of hard evidence against the Iranian regime, which routinely says things just as gob-smackingly stupid and undiplomatic and ultimately harmful to Iranians as Bush's best.

It seems that you have stereotyped me as holding a whole package of views that I do not hold, and implied that I am engaging in some kind of hypocrisy, simply because I asked for substantiation of a claim. But if I disagree with you on one thing, it does not follow that I hold all the views of your rhetorical enemies.


Changing the subject? I provided everything you asked for and it shows America blatantly disregards Article 6 of the NPT while expecting other countries to follow it. Hypocrisy at its finest.


From your article, 'Article VI of the NPT explicitly obliges signatories "to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control."'

And your argument is that the US is in breach of NPT because Bush said stupid things about tactical nukes?

Question: at which date is a signatory in violation? What is the deadline?

Not in violation but they did withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.



I think the (debatable ) key point here is that the treaty was a bargain between the then possessors of nuclear weapons and non-nuclear states. The deal was that non-nuclear states wouldn't develop weapons and the nuclear states would disarm. After the treaty was signed and non-nuclear states (largely) complied the number of weapons increased radically for decades and the destructive power of weapons in theater today is still massively greater than the weapons at signing. It can therefore be argued that the holders of the weapons have consistently acted contrary to the terms of the treaty. They have undisputably acted contrary to the spirit of the deal underlying the treaty.

I'm sick and tired hearing about these settlements. Wasn't that land captured after Israel's neighbors attempted to destroy it? Isn't Israel respectful to the 20% of it's population who are Arab? Hasn't Israel attempted to give a lot of that land back to the Palestinians:

The Clinton Parameters proposed a Palestinians state comprising between 94-96% of the West Bank and the entire Gaza Strip, with Israel annexing the remaining land, which would include almost all Israeli settlements, containing 80% of the settler population.


Things could be a lot better for Palestinians today, but a remarkable olive branch was shredded up by Yasser Arafat. The "International Community" continues his legacy by vilifying Israel every single day.



Have you read the NPT? And are you able to point to the sections that the US is in violation of along with the evidence proving that violation?

>>and their development of Nuclear weapons is thus in violation of international law.

What development of nuclear weapons? They have not developed anything.



Have you read the NPT? And are you able to point to the sections that Iran is in violation of along with the evidence proving that violation?

Unlike Israel which has not signed the agreement and has not let anyone inspect their nuclear weapons.

To play Devil's Advocate: How did they "fuck up big time"? From what I can tell from press coverage Stuxnet did exactly what it was supposed to do - damage centrifuges at Natanz.

According to the NYT coverage Stuxnet was never intended to spread beyond Natanz. The escape led to the worm's discovery by security researchers, which led to the investigation and revelation of the US's involvement.

I would say that because it spread beyond Natanz it was a big fuck up :)

Yeah, but everyone knows we don't want them to get nukes. The rest of the world doesn't want them to get nukes. Iran would have discovered the highly specialized virus on their network. It was a fuck up that the media got confirmation of the virus creators, but everyone knew who was behind it from day one.

No, everyone did not know. Many had strong suspicions.

Only did it though?

The evidence is VERY circumstantial to most nuclear engineering professionals I would think. I think you want them taken out, not vandalized.

IIRC, it was supposed to put Iran's nuclear program behind by several years, but because it escaped into the wild---and thus endured far greater public scrutiny than it would have otherwise---the Iranians found out about it much earlier than they were intended to, so it didn't have quite the impact that the US/Israel were hoping for.

The original nytimes article implies that the U.S. started this program as a way to prevent Israel from responding in a military way to Iran's nuclear program.

But yes, it certainly does seem that nary a geopolitical snafu goes by without the U.S. being involved.

That's because you hear about the snafus, not the successes. There is much more incentive inkeeping the successes black, classified, and burried. Snafus are, almost by definition, just the things you hear about---otherwise, whos's to say?

The things you hear about aren't limited to snafus. They also include propaganda and mistakes.

Blaming the US for essentially everything, with or without evidence, is a mainstay of many countries' politics.

Some things are a question of right, some things are a question of need or interest. The US has enemies and it doesn't want them to have nuclear weapons.

Because it could ONLY be the US which doesn't want Iran to have nuclear weapons (or for that matter, all of the Middle East to be in a nuclear arms race). Right?

No. Several countries & it's not entirely straightforward telling which.

Because it could ONLY be Iran which doesn't want USA to have nuclear weapons...

Historically speaking, USA is more likely to drop an atomic bomb than Iran (or any other country for that matter)

Is there any proof that the facility in question deals with uranium enrichment for military purposes?

No but the original article states a fear that the facility could be used to create a stockpile that could then be enriched to weapons-grade should Iran chose to do so. I'm not saying whether that is right or wrong but The article in the NYT states the President's fears.

Why not stop making enemies instead of creating and building ones end then trying to kill them again?

Because they're protecting us, remember?


It is anything but confirmed. Arstechnica writes an article about an article in the NYT (a paper that doesn't have the best track record reporting about cyber events and control system security issues to begin with) that cites no credible sources.

Also, you don't "lose control" of something like this, it was designed with many ways to spread. If control was lost it was during the spec/coding phase, not after deployment.

When the New York Times prints:

“Should we shut this thing down?” Mr. Obama asked, according to members of the president’s national security team who were in the room.

It is generally safe to assume, whether you admire the NYT (like me) or don't (like 'patio11), that there's an actual source with a credible claim to have been in the room with the President who did in fact tell David E. Sanger that this happened. People have accused the NYT of bending the truth in lots of ways, but misreporting a White House meeting is not one of those ways.

I'm annoyed to have to write this, because I'm one of the people who thought the Stuxnet thing was marvelously overhyped and unlikely to be true. Friends of mine who are much smarter than me thought the worm might have just been a cover for direct sabotage. Nope; it seems like the government was exactly as simultaneously savvy and idiotic as online pundits had claimed it was.


Why's it depressing? It seems like it worked, and any failure would have been much less spectacular than US operatives being caught breaking into Natanz.

Sabotage: good.

Sabotage via infiltration of IT: good.

Sabotage via infiltration of IT via propagating malware: not so good.

Did your friends who thought it might have been a cover for direct sabotage not examine the code? I assume anyone working in InfoSec at least has access to the binaries. With an appropriate SCADA controller you can see it in action, too.

Edit: Actually it looks like these days anyone can grab RE'd source off the intarwebs, though I haven't checked to see if the downloads Google is feeding me are legitimate.

Eh, perhaps. Either way, I think Dale puts my feelings into words better than I would have, http://www.digitalbond.com/2012/06/01/ny-times-historical-fi....

Misreporting or being given a specific leak that the administration would like to see published? Lots of incentives for the powers that be to pseudo-claim credit for this in a nudge-nudge-wink-wink sort of way.

Yeah, you and Nate Lawson were totally out to lunch on that. I was honestly amazed that anyone thought it could have been anything else, and still am.

But I see nothing idiotic about it.

The sources aren't named, but it would be a pretty major, major slip-up to specifically claim to site NSA advisers if it were made up out of whole cloth. As in, career ending for the writer. For example, "...according to members of the president’s national security team who were in the room." Journalists don't drop phrases like that lightly, and you don't have access to several NSA members and high-ranking US officials unless this leak is 100% sponsored by the Administration. It clearly was: one can tell by the quantity and range of officials that were interviewed who demonstrate, at points, first-hand knowledge of the situation.

Now, the question of whether these NSA advisers are -lying- as part of a propaganda campaign is a fair question. I wouldn't be shocked if they were, but everything that I have anecdotally read about Stuxnet and just using common sense, tells me--a layman on the outside looking in--that there is a pretty decent probability this is true, or at least pretty close to the truth.

Clearly, the timing of this is politically relevant. The President wants to take credit for it to boost his domestic stock in the runup to the election.

He can repeat these two key points whenever he is questioned on foreign policy:

1) I killed Bin Laden 2) I'm the guy who set the maniacal Ahmadinejad's nuclear ambitions back. The guy who is preventing the destruction of Israel.

Regardless of your political persuasion, these are potent points that have a chance to resonate with the electorate.

(fwiw: I'm not particularly in love with the NYTimes. I don't have an affinity for any particular newspaper anymore. I'm not defending the newspaper, just pointing out the likely reality as I understand it)

How much more do you think you can reasonably expect for an ongoing covert national security program?

If the article is wrong, it would be a massive screw up. Huge. Historical. The kind of thing that would prompt a strong rebuke from the named countries and individuals.

In fact it's a remarkably well sourced article given the context and a cynical person might speculate on the timing of this revelation in regards to the upcoming election.

But yeah, it's confirmed. And I suggest you read the full NYT article (if you haven't). The Ars summary adds little value and elides many details that make the overall story more credible.

You act as if its something that the countries would want to rebuke. Seems like good PR and an orchestrated leak to me.

So someone else created Stuxnet, but many months after its discovery the US government orchestrated a leak involving multiple government agencies and a detailed backstory to falsely take credit for it?

That seems like a complicated and unnecessary conspiracy theory that runs a very high risk of unraveling in an embarrassing fashion. It is not plausible.

the NYT (a paper that doesn't have the best track record reporting about cyber events and control system security issues to begin with)

Do you have any citations for what you are referring to here? I'd like to read more about this topic (and the NYT) if you have the info available.

The one part of the article that sticks out to me is that they "lost control" of the virus. I wonder if this is really true. Politically, it probably sounds better to say, "oops, this was only meant for Iran. Somebody messed up" than to have to field questions from reporters:

"Why does the United States think it is okay to infect hundreds of thousands of computers with this virus?"

"Is it ethical to introduce security holes or exploit security holes of everyday citizens of allies?"

"Do you take responsibility for the collateral damage? Have you committed an act of aggression on nation-states you are not in conflict with? How does that affect your relations with these nations?"

I wonder if this is their easy way to set themselves up to say, "This is complicated technology, our primary goal is to stop a dangerous nation from getting a dangerous weapon. We apologize for any collateral." even if that statement was false.

Perhaps it was necessary for the virus to spread to ensure the success of the mission and that cost was accepted, but they just don't want to admit it publically because of what it would open themselves up to.

This is a good point. Being somewhat familiar with the code, but not enough to call this a provable lie, there is nothing I'm aware of that really fits this statement. No "error" that caused it to "leak". I don't think they wanted it to leak, but the design of it could only constrain it so much. It was intentionally designed to infect other computers in order to reach its target.

The other part that makes no sense to me is the bit about the "beacon" that would deliver info back to them over an air gap network. This is rather confusing and inconsistent with what has been seen from it, but it's not impossible.

But of course these statements went through several non-technical people and were written for a non-technical audience, so they might be based on something accurate and just sound funny.

If Israel had physically bombed the Iranian plant would that not started another major war in the Middle East? I am not saying this is an elegant solution to cross border conflict but war was avoided.

Everyone in the hacker community knows this was coming. This is going to get much worst before it gets better. Power outages in Brazil, China/Google event last year, and stuxnet.

As the article says: "Stuxnet is old news by now. Even the newly discovered "Flame" malware was developed some time ago. While details about these two targeted attack packages are finally emerging, the next generation of attack tools has no doubt been developed and likely deployed."

> If Israel had physically bombed the Iranian plant would that not started another major war in the Middle East?

Who would be the combatants? One of the few actually interesting things that came out of the leaked diplomatic cables was that many of the major Middle East countries want Iran's nuclear program stopped, with Saudi Arabia actually repeatedly urging the US to attack.

In light of that, I'd expect that if Israel attacked it would be publicly condemned by the rest of the Middle East countries, but most would secretly be relieved.

Iran (and a few other countries we know) is historically known for fighting war by proxy. Suicide bomber here, assassination there, dollars flowing to multiple heavily armed anti-Israel groups.

Also on top of this what would be Russia + China's reaction be to a physical attack on one of their allies. Heck what would be the price of oil? $150 a barrel?

Iran and Israel have probably the largest militaries in the region, so if Iran responded to Israel's attack things could escalate into a shooting war quickly.

Wasn't the US all up in arms about how China was increasingly using cyber-warfare on both foreign government and corporate interests?

Then it turns out they are doing it themselves? Tut Tut. Though not really surprising.

I do feel though that with the success that lolsec had last year very few companies / governments are prepared against a concerted attempt to access their data.

From the NYT article:

> American, European and Israeli officials involved in the program, as well as a range of outside experts. None would allow their names to be used because the effort remains highly classified, and parts of it continue to this day.

Convenient. Not only was the reporter able to secure one reliable, anonymous, highly privileged source to confirm the story, but he found multiple!

The NYT would almost certainly not have run the story with a single source backing it up.

There is too much wishful thinking going on around Stuxnet, both on the part of the security industry and the general public who'd rather believe their own country originated it. If you were a world super power, wouldn't it be in your interests to claim responsibility for a first of its kind, extremely high tech attack? I believe any government wouldn't mind this kind of attribution.

I'll wait my 50 years or whatever for the relevant documents to be declassified, in the meantime this is all just drama and guesswork, no matter how many anonymous, totally reliable sources crawl out of the woodwork.

Did you read the NYT article? I found it to be pretty convincing. Who do you suggest as an alternate culprit?

It makes it more plausible that way. ;)

If the UN security council was a fair body Stuxnet would be judged to be an unprovoked act of war and the US and Israel would be sanctioned in some way. But of course the US gets to have it's thumbs on the UNSC scales. But the question is, if the US is going to blatantly abuse its privileged position like this how long is it going to last? There has been a Western consensus on a liberal framework for international law going back to WWII which was based on the idea that we are the good guys, democratic, moral, law abiding, etc. GWBush and Obama have been doing their best to destroy that because of lobbying by our war mongering Israeli "friends".

Military power is a requirement for international politics.

Do you think counties summit to laws because of what? If no one can over power then, they have to abide to no law. UNis just to cut costs for the dominating military powers.

Want something done? It costs less to send some talker to tell about the power you can mobilize than to mobilize that power at once.

That's a very cynical point of view that was the cause of much death before the creation of the UN. There used to be this ideal about what the UN meant including respect for international laws. How can we credibly complain that Iran is violating a UN resolution at this point? If we're moving back to a might-makes-right world we are doomed to a future of new world wars and untold carnage.

"If we're moving back to a might-makes-right world we are doomed to a future of new world wars and untold carnage."

In my view, we never left a "might-makes-right world". It's the underlying reality of human existence and human nature. And yes, that absolutely does mean that our future holds new world wars and untold carnage. Is it a particularly happy thought? No, not really. But it's part of the human experience.

Philosophicalness: -5 Craziness: 982374982374082348912823

You guys need to get off the internet and into the real world a bit more.

You should actually read that link; the emails indicated HBGary were interested in using Stuxnet (probably the framework or exploits it used), but not that they had any idea who actually made Stuxnet.

So no, Anonymous didn't "scoop" anything.

Aaron Barr talks to Defence Intelligence Agency and DoD about StuxNet in 2010, they had a copy given to them in 2009 that they claim was a US produced binary. Keep in mind stuxnet was 'discovered' in 2010.

First reference to Stuxnet being U.S. government produced? You decide.

"You decide" a convenient way to avoid providing evidence of strong claims while still making them? You decide.

Yes. Exactly, sorry, it's a lazy cliche, but I do think the evidence is there in the HB Gary emails that enables one to conclude beyond some reasonable level of doubt it was U.S. produced. However, the NY Times piece does provide evidence from the mouth of the source, and has far more detail.

There were many previous references, but zero previous confirmations.

Stuxnet was widely assumed to be a US and/or Israeli venture simply because those are the only countries with the apparent resources and motivation to pull it off.

But this NYT story is indeed a scoop. It confirms that belief and provides quite a bit more detail.

The fact that one of the most powerful nations in the world not only created one of the most notorious viruses in the world but lost control of it is madness. Its original purpose was to cause hardware to physically destroy itself. Imagine if, by sheer coincidence, the commands for that were the same as the commands for something like a nuclear reactor's cooling turbines? It's incredibly improbable but not impossible. That makes this a hugely dangerous and downright stupid occurrence. America shouts at Pakistan for losing control of its nukes and then develops, with a country that has some reputation for overkill (Israeli invasion of Gaza being a prime example), a dangerous weapon in software form, then doesn't pay attention to what the thing actually does? Where's the review process? How does something like the software being modified so it can infect and spread on common consumer systems so rapidly (I'm assuming that the modifications were to the way it spread, not sure) get missed? It's crass carelessness.

International espionage is half offence and half tact. It's not espionage if everyone finds out about it.

Security lesson from the article: "It turns out there is always an idiot around who doesn’t think much about the thumb drive in their hand."

Was true before thumb drives. Fun fact: President Carter once sent his suit to the dry cleaner's -- with the nuclear launch codes in the pocket.

More fun fact: nuclear launch codes meant nothing in Carter's time. There was literally a group of Admirals/Generals who were physically capable of pressing the button at any time without presidential authorization.

So let me get this straight, they lost control of it and it ended up inside an Iranian power plant? You can't lose control of something so specifically tailored. The possible targets of this thing could be a few hundred installations around the globe so the motivation of stealing it, if it's even remotely possible to steal something like that, should be very low.

You know what's most surprising about this? That the developers, knowing fine well it was for a single target and the damage it could do in the wild, didn't implement a kill switch.

Quite frankly cowboy coding like that is why we'll end up with Skynet becoming self-aware.

Actually, in this case, a kill switch would be a bad idea for the original coders. It opens the possibility of the target rendering the attack pointless.

Imagine a tank with a nice big, red button that shuts down the internal systems instantly. Now imagine that button on the outside of the tank. Sure, you could put some kind of password encoded lock on the button but it's a huge START HERE sign on the outside of the protection of the tank.

How do you put a kill switch in? The entire point was for it to be on an offline system, and the traffic for it checking for Internet to in turn check for an order like that might have given the game away.

It sounds like they had something to check it wasn't outside and someone just screwed up.

I think the obvious thing would be to look for Internet activity on the machine. E.g., recent files for popular sites in a browser cache directory. Or live network traffic for public netblocks.

But it has to start out on machines connected to the public internet before spreading to the secret facility via USB drive. If it didn't spread when connected to the Internet, it wouldn't work. And it already doesn't blow up centrifuges when it's not on the target network.

it already doesn't blow up centrifuges when it's not on the target network

I can verify that. None of my centrifuges have been blown up.

You engineer a solution. Quite frankly if you can't think of how to put a kill switch into something like this then it shouldn't be getting written or allowed into the wild. You can't add that to Bugzilla and hope to fix it later.

How is this not an act of war? Doesn't congress need approve military actions of this sort?

No, the president would need Congressional approval to have military units in Iran for more than 90 days. In practice presidents almost always ask Congress for advance approval, since having to pull out in the middle of an invasion would be rather embarrassing. The only exception that comes to mind is Reagan's invasion of Grenada, where the US military was in and out easily under the time limit.

So how does that limitation interact with non-personnel warfare, such as viruses and drones and spying?

Another exception is Libya where they're not considering it a military action.

wow... the turn around on confirmation of conspiracy theories these days is a year, rather than the decades of past.

The truth is, if you love the Internet you had better start fighting to stop these escalations. Otherwise, it will cease to exist. The first time a massive attack causes real fear in western civilization, people will start questioning how much they really need it in their lives.

The lack of plausible deniability will lead to escalation. Once it does, national security (from the perspective of each country) will govern it's growth, not freedom.

This doesn't seem to be a very good day for the US Government:


People, it is said, do "stupid" things on the internet in the belief that they will remain anonymous. Have the US and Israeli governments made the same mistake?

Considering that Iran is very well aware the US and Israel have a vested interest in dismantling their nuclear programs and that both countries are using cyber warfare to achieve their goals... Why would the US care if they remain anonymous? Do you considering setting back the Iranian nuclear program a "stupid thing someone did on the internet"?

Possibly relevant : Bruce Dang on stuxnet http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rOwMW6agpTI

It's amusing that they 'lost control' of it because a simple bit of code along the lines of "if www.google.com resolves then shutdown" would be effective at detecting whether it was on the Internet or not.

> It's amusing that they 'lost control' of it because a simple bit of code along the lines of "if www.google.com resolves then shutdown" would be effective at detecting whether it was on the Internet or not.

Not really. The code would need to rely on or implement additional network (or DNS) code, and then also make a network connection; making it much more easily traced.

Either way, I think the "lost control" headline here is a bit much. Stuxnet, from the analysis performed, was harmless beyond the target network.

Such mechanism would make it very easy for Iranians to defeat the purpose of this program.

What if google.com isn't resolvable from the host? The quality of person on HN has gone down hill.

You might want to have a look at your own comment history...

I'm going to take the contrarian view here. If Iran had gotten to the point of enriching uranium to weapons-grade levels and Israel had done a pre-emptive strike, that would have gotten messy real fast. More messy than this. Disabling their centrifuges in a way where presumably no one died doesn't sound so bad to me considering the alternative. Again, just the contrarian viewpoint.

I don't think that's contrarian.

If your choices are between allowing Israel to start a new war in the middle east, or work with Israel on this risky new cyberweapon, I think most people would pick the cyberweapon.

What concerns me is the lack of evidence that all of their centrifuges were actually knocked. At the start of this they were enriching to 5%, now they are at 20%. That indicates to me that they have been progressing, not repairing knocked centrifuges. I realize it is still a LONG way from where they need to be for a workable weapon. I'm just wondering if stuxnet did nothing but a tiny bit of damage and a whole lot of 'show our hand'. A little like the whole drone debacle.

Judging by what I've read, this is far from contrarian.

Thats is because Obama is a pussy. He doesn't have the guts to put Osamas head on a stake, dipped in pigfat, and he doesn't have the guts to tell Israel no.

Just remind them that we are the reason you exist and we can and will withdraw that support when we want to.

if this info is correct then it's an outrage. control lost or not.

They should have read about the Internet Worm of 1988 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morris_worm

Those who don't know history are bound to repeat it?

HIV (just to be clear, I have no clue wether HIV was assisted by some military programmes, but I can safely say such "mistakes" have been made in the past by the same army, like when they used to test nukes for example)

Luckily this time it's a simple pc virus we can easily disassemble and counter - I think cyber war's still miles better than the alternatives.

No, you can't "safely" say that. You've no evidence that the US military has ever been involved in creating a wide-scale biological pandemic. This is just conspiracy theory bunk.

I'm not sure how you can reasonably compare testing nuclear weapons to the supposed propagation of HIV, either. These two things have nothing in common.

Alright, you want details ? During the testing of nuclear weapons, the US had no problem testing the secondary effects of nukes through radiation far beyond the blast zone, by putting boats with soldiers to watch the thing.

It was widely known at that time that radiation was bad for you mkay, and that nuclear fission bombs were nuclear fission bombs, i.e. accelerated nuclear degradation bombs and drained all their explosive power from radiations, that kill mkay.

In the past, biological, chemical, explosive weapons were tested on rocks, plants, prisoners, personnel, unsuspecting local populations, etc. by the nazi regime, the US govt, the USSR and France - that are widely confirmed.

I wouldn't put it past THOSE people to do such a thing, would you ?

So really, if you want to say it's IMPOSSIBLE or UNLIKELY that they would've done that too, without knowing the consequences - I suppose you must be right.

Yes, the US has done bad things, and AIDS is a bad thing, but it doesn't follow that the US caused AIDS. After all, nature has had no trouble creating pandemics without any deliberate human help over the centuries.

(just to be clear, I have no clue wether HIV was assisted by some military programmes, but I can safely say such "mistakes" have been made in the past by the same army, like when they used to test nukes for example)

That means I just used the HIV word to connect to the concept of bio weapon testing gone wrong - weapon testing gone wrong.

The reason why is that one of the most popular theories on HIV is that the US military had a part in its development.

I don't know and I don't care, those people have such a bad karma even AIDS wouldn't make much difference - just read the disclaimer next time ;)

> That means I just used the HIV word to connect to the concept of bio weapon testing gone wrong - weapon testing gone wrong.

This means you just randomly connected unrelated things.

The connection doesn't even make sense at a basic level. If the US knowingly put sailors in boats near nuclear blasts to test for radiation effects, it wasn't a mistake. It was an intentional act. It makes no sense to say that this implies that super-HIV could have been accidentally released in the wild by the US government.

> The reason why is that one of the most popular theories on HIV is that the US military had a part in its development.

Popular among conspiracy theorists, perhaps, not among the general population or among experts in the field.

> I wouldn't put it past THOSE people to do such a thing, would you?

This is amazingly bad logic.

  The US has done some bad things.
  This is a bad thing.
  Therefore the US did this.
There is no link here, except in your own mind.

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