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Middle East
Iran 'attacked' by computer worm
Iran's nuclear agency trying to combat a virus capable of taking over systems that control power plants, media says.
Last Modified: 25 Sep 2010 15:08 GMT
Foreign media has speculated that the worm is aimed at disrupting the Bushehr nuclear plant [EPA]

Iran's nuclear agency is trying to combat a complex computer worm that has affected industrial sites throughout the country and is capable of taking over the control systems of power plants, Iranian media reports have said.

Experts from the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran met this week to discuss how to remove the malicious computer code, or worm, the semi-official Isna news agency reported on Friday.

No damage or disruption of nuclear facilities has yet been reported, however.

The computer worm, dubbed Stuxnet, can take over systems that control the inner workings of industrial plants.

Experts in Germany discovered the worm in July, and it has since shown up in a number of attacks - primarily in Iran, Indonesia, India and the US.

'Disrupting Bushehr'

Isna said the malware had spread throughout Iran, but did not name specific sites affected.

Foreign media reports have speculated the worm was aimed at disrupting Iran's first nuclear power plant, which is to go online in October in the southern port city of Bushehr.

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The Russian-built plant will be internationally supervised, but world powers remain concerned that Iran wants to use its civil nuclear power programme as a cover for making weapons.

Iran denies such an aim and says its nuclear work is solely for peaceful purposes.

The destructive Stuxnet worm has surprised experts because it is the first one specifically created to take over industrial control systems, rather than just steal or manipulate data.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Rik Ferguson, a senior security adviser at the computer security company Trend Micro, described the worm as "very sophisticated".

"It is designed both for information theft, looking for design documents and sending that information back to the controllers, and for disruptive purposes," he said.

"It can issue new commands or change commands used in manufacturing.

"It's difficult to say with any certainty who is behind it. There are multiple theories, and in all honesty, any of of them could be correct."

Western experts have said the worm's sophistication - and the fact that about 60 per cent of computers infected looked to be in Iran - pointed to a government-backed attack.

Washington is also tracking the worm, and the Department of Homeland Security is building specialised teams that can respond quickly to cyber emergencies at industrial facilities across the US.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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