Israel Instigates ‘Digital Arms Race’
By Dave Gahary
The Zionist state’s ongoing disrespect for its only global ally continues to anger patriotic Americans who fear that U.S. government coddling of the Jewish nation harms our national security interests. These patriots were proven right once again, as Israel’s blatant disregard for U.S. cyber-espionage policy led to the discovery of the most massive computer virus ever unleashed, by Iran, setting back this country’s electronic eavesdropping and code-breaking capabilities many years.
In April, reportedly acting against U.S. wishes, Israel conducted a unilateral cyber attack on Iran’s Oil Ministry and oil-export facilities, which tipped off Iran, who hired Kaspersky Labs, a Russian cybersecurity firm, and CrySys, a Hungarian cryptography and system security lab to analyze the virus. In May, the firms released their findings, dubbing the new virus Flame, Skywiper and Flamer; the name Flame seems to have stuck. It was also uncovered by the firms that Flame was created prior to the Stuxnet computer virus and belonged to the same family.
Stuxnet was a computer virus identified in 2010 designed to clandestinely infiltrate and destroy Iran’s nuclear fuel enrichment program. Its attack caused around 1,000 centrifuges to spin out of control at the Islamic Republic’s Natanz nuclear facility, which Iran has consistently stated is used to produce fuel for domestic electricity consumption. This past Sunday, June 24, Stuxnet was programmed to deactivate. As is often the case, AMERICAN FREE PRESS was the first national newspaper to report on Stuxnet, whose detailed analysis of the computer virus pinned it rightly on the Israelis.
The Flame virus, 20 times the size of Stuxnet, “is the largest and possibly most complex piece of malware ever discovered,” according to a May 28 article in The Washington Post, which was the first U.S. mainstream media outlet to report on the Russian and Hungarian findings. Malware, a contraction for ‘malicious software,’ has historically been used for Internet fraud, but “sophisticated versions are now tools for warfare and espionage,” according to a June 26 article in Metro, a UK publication.
Flame masquerades as a Microsoft software update and was able to evade detection for several years, and is suspected to have infected more than 600 targets in Iran, Sudan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The virus is capable of recording keystrokes, collecting passwords, taking screenshots, turning on microphones and webcams and utilizing Bluetooth devices, to conduct cyber espionage and sabotage. It is so sophisticated, it can be instructed to self-destruct to avoid detection.
In a June 1 article in The New York Times adapted from the new book Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power by David E. Sanger, the author claims that President Barack Obama, in “his first months in office…secretly ordered increasingly sophisticated attacks on the computer systems that run Iran’s main nuclear enrichment facilities, significantly expanding America’s first sustained use of cyberweapons…” Obama inherited the cyber initiative from the George W. Bush administration, code-named Olympic Games.
The book, an account of Israeli and U.S. efforts to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program, is based on 18 months of interviews “with current and former American, European and Israeli officials involved in the program, as well as a range of outside experts,” none of whom “would allow their names to be used because the effort remains highly classified, and parts of it continue to this day.”
As Sanger explains, these cyber attacks appear “to be the first time the United States has repeatedly used cyberweapons to cripple another country’s infrastructure, achieving, with computer code, what until then could be accomplished only by bombing a country or sending in agents to plant explosives.”
The marked increase and state-sanctioning of using computer worms for espionage and sabotage has some concerned that a new type of arms race is upon us, a digital arms race.
According to the article in Metro, several “cyber security experts…have called Stuxnet the digital equivalent of the first nuclear attack on Hiroshima,” and “warn that Stuxnet’s code provides a template and conceptual model for a far more destructive ‘son of Stuxnet’ cyber weapon that could be deployed by other nation states or hacktivists for cyber attacks against power grids and other civilian infrastructure.” Hacktivist is a contraction of the words “hacker” and “activist,” which describes a person versed in the art of computer hacking who uses these skills for economic, social and/or political means.
As pointed out in the Metro article, “a recent poll of 250 cyber-security experts by computer protection firm McAfee and the Brussels-based Security and Defence Agenda think tank found 57% were convinced a digital arms race was under way while more than a third said cyber security should be more important than missile defence.”
U.S.-based Symantec Corporation, the largest maker of security software for computers, reported in its latest Internet threat report that malware attacks have skyrocketed. “The firm blocked more than 5.5B of them in 2011, an increase of 81% on the previous year’s figure,” according to the piece in Metro. Over the same time, continues the article, “the number of new computer viruses and worms increased from 286M to 403M.”
A UK-based senior lecturer in computer science warns that, “Terrorists could…penetrate a hospital database and change medical histories, causing fatal errors on the prescription of drugs. It is also possible terrorists could hack airline computer systems, tampering with aspects such as the weights and measures that control plane fuel and payload.”
“This may be the year of cyber espionage and attacks,” he concluded.
Dave Gahary, a former submariner in the U.S. Navy, is the host of AFP’s “Underground Interview” series.
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