Washington, Nov 16 (ANI): The Stuxnet computer worm that infiltrated industrial systems in Iran this fall may have been specifically designed to deliberately attack the country's newly-opened nuclear program, potentially crippling centrifuges used to enrich uranium gas, according to new research.
In a blog post on Friday, a Stuxnet researcher at Symantec wrote that the software firm had concluded that the worm targets industrial systems with high frequency "converter drives" from two specific vendors, including one in Iran, the Washington Post reports.
Meanwhile, Langner Communications of Germany, on Sunday also discovered that another part of the worm's attack code is configured in a way that would match the structure of a turbine control system for steam turbines used in power plants, such as those installed at the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran. Langner also confirmed that the worm appears to attack key components of centrifuges.
The paper quoted Ivanka Barzashka, a research associate at the Federation of American Scientists, as saying that the Symantec findings, "if true, are very significant."
In an e-mail, Barzashka wrote that the targeted frequency range, from 807 megahertz to 1210 megahertz, "is consistent with the operational frequencies of gas centrifuges used for uranium enrichment. Centrifuges are delicate pieces of equipment. There is a huge incentive for pushing the machines to operate at the maximum speed allowed by the materials they are made of. In addition, before they reach their maximum operating speeds, centrifuges have to traverse certain 'critical frequencies' at which they encounter resonance and can fly apart."
"Rigging the speed control is a very clever way of causing the machines to fly apart," she added.
Barzashka further stated that if Symantec's analysis is true, then Stuxnet is likely aiming to destroy Iran's gas centrifuges, which could produce enriched uranium for both nuclear fuel and nuclear bombs."
Following the discovery of the Stuxnet virus, analysts said it was likely the creation of a sophisticated entity, namely a government agency. Speculation centered on the United States or Israel as the most likely originators of the worm. (ANI)