|Officials said the start-up of operations at the Bushehr facility will be delayed for several months [AFP]|
Iran has arrested several people suspected of spying on the country’s nuclear facilities, the country’s intelligence minister has been quoted as saying.
Heidar Moslehi said “the enemy” had “sent electronic worms through the internet to undermine Iran’s nuclear activities”, according to the semi-official Mehr news agency.
But the report on did not specify whether the arrests were linked to the Stuxnet malware virus that Iran says infected personal computers of staff at its Bushehr nuclear facility, but did not affect operations at the plant.
“We are always facing destructive activities by these [espionage] services, and, of course, we have arrested a number of nuclear spies to block the enemy’s destructive moves,” Moslehi said, according to the website of state-run Press TV, citing Mehr.
“Iran’s intelligence department has found a solution for confronting [the worm] and it will be applied,” the minister said.
“Our domination of virtual networks has thwarted the activities of enemies in this regard.”
Moslehi said Iran has “always faced sabotage” by foreign intelligence services, but said the country was capable of fending off such an attack.
Shortly after the existence of the virus was made public, Iran announced the start-up of operations at Bushehr would be delayed for several months.
Over recent months, the malicious Stuxnet computer code has also affected industrial systems in India, Indonesia and the US, but 60 per cent of incident of the virus have been discovered in Iran.
The destructive Stuxnet worm surprised experts because it is the first one specifically created to take over industrial control systems, like those at power plants, rather than just steal or manipulate data.
The internet security firm Symantec Corp says the computer worm was likely spawned by a government or a well-funded private group.
It was apparently constructed by a small team of as many as five to 10 highly-educated and well-funded hackers, Symantec said.
Diplomats and security sources say Western governments and Israel view sabotage as one way to target Iran’s nuclear work. The US and its allies say they fear Iran is seeking nuclear weapons, but Tehran insists the programme is to meet civilian energy needs.
Increasingly tough sanctions have been imposed on Iran to put pressure on it to demonstrate its nuclear activities are peaceful.