Remember the Stuxnet computer virus? Initially found to have infested big-time control systems around the world, its true purpose quickly emerged: to attack and destroy the nuclear centrifuges at Iran’s Natanz nuclear enrichment facility.
That part is well known enough — and appears to have been successful, given Iran’s problems with the enrichment program. But this superb video, created by Patrick Clair and written by Scott Mitchell for the HungryBeast program on Australia’s ABC1, breaks down the details of how it was discovered and what made it so ingenious. You gotta watch:
There’s a powerful, under-reported takeaway here: The Stuxnet virus, having already done its job, now enjoys a scary afterlife. Its code is available online for anyone to look at and play with — and keep in mind, this is a virus capable of shutting down entire power grids. Could hackers re-engineer the virus to other ends, posing far greater threats to the international economy?
It’s hard to know, as the hacking still continues apace (and the video seems a bit all too invested in scaring the bejesus out of you). Certainly, you’d have to have a deep knowledge of a specific target to make it work again, in another setting. But it’s worth wondering whether the tool, while successful, has ended up spreading dangerous knowledge worldwide. Once its complexity and ambition becomes absorbed by the hacker community — and governments such as China — who knows what will emerge as a result.
In 100 years, historians will probably look back at Stuxnet’s emergence as the Trinity Test for a new age of warfare — a harbinger of danger in an uncertain era.