Don’t mess with the hackers of the IDF

Apparently, exploiting the vulnerabilities of our plugged-in world is not just the province of Julian Assange and the pimply anarchists who attacked credit card companies (as well as those they perceived as the “persecutors” of Assange) last week. It can also be done by the good guys, for good purposes.

At least, that’s the case if this story is true:

‘Stuxnet virus set back Iran’s nuclear program by 2 years’

12/15/2010 05:15
Top German computer consultant tells ‘Post’ virus was as effective as military strike, a huge success; expert speculates IDF creator of virus.

The Stuxnet virus, which has attacked Iran’s nuclear facilities and which Israel is suspected of creating, has set back the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program by two years, a top German computer consultant who was one of the first experts to analyze the program’s code told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
“It will take two years for Iran to get back on track,” Langer said in a telephone interview from his office in Hamburg, Germany. “This was nearly as effective as a military strike, but even better since there are no fatalities and no full-blown war. From a military perspective, this was a huge success.”…
So… Israel, sick of the rest of the world dithering, just bought us all another couple of years before Nutjob Ahmadinejad and company have the bomb. And they did it without any bombs of their own, or violence of any kind. Not that there aren’t dangers inherent in this kind of cyberpower.

If this is true.

Fascinating. Of course, if this doesn’t get the job done, Israel is still pretty good at doing things the old messy way, as this T-shirt (brought to my attention by the same alert reader who brought me the above) rather baldly asserts, with a slogan that is a more polite version of what Daniel Craig said in “Munich.” Note that Dubai still hasn’t gotten to the bottom of that hit close to a year ago.

11 thoughts on “Don’t mess with the hackers of the IDF

  1. Phillip

    Whoever executed this plan should be applauded for their ingenuity.

    I don’t know whether by use of the word “dithering” you were merely projecting what you imagined Israel’s interpretation of recent events to be, or whether you genuinely also believe that the rest of the world, including the US, has been “dithering” about Iran. I’m certainly hoping it was just the former.

    As Meir Javedanfar writes in this piece: “[Obama’s] diplomatic drive and consensus building in the international community has done considerable damage to the Iranian regime’s global standing, as well as its business interests. Indeed, after only two years in office, Obama has done more to undermine the regime of Ali Khamenei over the course of two years than George W. Bush did in eight.”

    Iran is increasingly isolated, its position continuously weakened in the last couple of years; the Wikileaks’ revelations help confirm this (esp. vis-a-vis neighboring Arab regimes) but there is much other evidence to support that. If one follows a variety of news sources in the Middle East, such as Al-Arabiya, there is clear evidence of persistent domestic opposition to Ahmedinejad throughout Iran, every day (more news of this than we receive here, oddly). The success of the Obama Administration in building an international bulwark against Iran is underscored by the recent treaty with Russia, passage of which however is threatened by faux patriots and war fetishists like Jim DeMint.

    It may yet come to the point where something more drastic will have to happen. But the US has hardly been “dithering,” unless one feels that taking all possible steps (including that forgotten tool of liberal democracies’ arsenal, patience) to accomplish the goal short of launching us into yet a third war while our domestic society and economy continue to crumble, counts as “dithering.”

  2. Brad

    Certainly it looks like dithering to Israel — when someone who wants you rubbed off the map is trying to build nukes, anything will look like dithering.

    And it does to me, too — although I think you’re reading more into that than I intended. I’m not suggesting that there is some other, easier, more desirable course that we are failing to take. Pretty much all the courses available to us are extremely unattractive, as Iran plods onward toward going nuclear.

    Sometimes there’s not much you can do beyond dithering.

    Perhaps you’ve been impressed by the wonderful, responsible, worldwide response to this rising threat. Perhaps you see the whole civilized world rising with a will to press Iran on all fronts to cut it out. I do not. I find it all extremely frustrating.

    And yeah, I know my more peaceful friends here think I just want to go in with guns blazing. But I don’t, because I don’t think that’s a good option here. We DO have to maintain the credible threat that we’ll do it if we have to (and fortunately everyone knows Israel will), because that’s an important element of negotiation with the likes of Ahmadinejad — there has to be a less attractive option, from his perspective, to diplomacy. But we don’t want it to come to that.

    The greatest hope, as always, with Iran is the Iranian people’s disenchantment with Ahmadinejad and his hardline mullah sponsors. Get the current regime out of the way, and this is a country we could work with. (At least, everything I’ve ever heard seems to indicate that.) Of course, the hardliners know that, too, which is why they so brutally suppressed dissent after the election last year.

    With Stuxnet, Israel apparently DID SOMETHING, and compared to that, everything the rest of the world has done looks like dithering. But even that has its downside. Cyberwar has ominous implications that could be more harmful to the world than the occasional airstrike or assassination team. It’s a different sort of violence.

    This morning on NPR, I heard a couple of “experts” on cyberwar being interviewed. It was frustrating to listen to, because these “experts” were actually just childishly enthusiastic Julian Assange cheerleaders, celebrating the coming demise of the nation state and praising those children who initiated the denial of service attacks as the new minutemen, their attacks the new Lexington and Concord. Well, I’m a rule of law guy, and I’ve never felt all that good about Lexington and Concord (once we had the Declaration, I think the Revolution was on a sound legal and moral footing; before that, shooting at the duly constituted authorities from behind trees really bothers me). Also, John Adams was my kind of revolutionary — adolescent anarchists are not.

    The world has a pretty good thing going with the Internet — even if it did kill the business model that supported the newspaper industry (which has some long-term implications for our democracy, but I expect we’ll adjust). If we can’t have confidence in e-commerce or other uses of the Web, we’re likely to have problems that make the Great Recession look like a holiday.

    So I’m glad the IDF pulled this off on the one hand. But I think the demonstrated ability to carry out such disruptions is a cause for sober reflection as well.

  3. Ralph Hightower

    I’ve been reading a bit about Stuxnet. Security and anti-virus vendor Symantec published an article about it it works and propogates. Stuxnet is crafted to attack Siemen’s SCADA systems and equipment that is in use in Iran’s plant. It appears to be well crafted to play havoc with Iran’s nuclear facilities. Symantec did not identify the source of the virus.

  4. bud

    Fasinating indeed. Why is it that one nutcase nation, Isreal, can have nuclear bombs, slaughter civilians, occupy land in opposition to international treaty and it’s considered a hero among the conservative movement when it attacks another nation (cyberwise at least). While another nation, Iran, attempts to develop a nuclear power program and is considered a pyriah? No wonder there is so much animosity toward the U.S. We support one rogue nation while at the same time invade another one and in so doing slaughter thousands of civilians. My plan is to get all our people out of the whole region and let them fight it out amongst themselves. This is just not our fight.

  5. Brad

    Israel, the “nutcase nation”…

    Bud, you’re a nice guy, but I am REALLY glad that you’re not in charge of our foreign or security policy…

    Just how hard can it possibly be to distinguish between the only functioning liberal democracy in the region, and a country run by a guy who says the Holocaust didn’t happen, who wants Israel to cease to exist and is striving to obtain the means to bring about that goal?

    I mean, really… I know moral equivalence is all the rage in certain circles, but this is really not a left or right thing. This is something we have a very long consensus about in this country that crosses party and ideological boundaries (the only real differences among policy makers in this country, from administration to administration, are by comparison matters of nuance, such as how hard to push on settlements, or what is the best way to accomplish a two-state solution). And if we didn’t have such a consensus among policymakers, it should only take about 30 seconds to reach one. I mean on broad principles. We might fight over ways and means or emphasis, but the consensus exists as to the fundamental differences between Israel and Ahmadinejad. Thank goodness.

  6. bud

    Remember the Liberty incident? Here’s a brief excerpt from Wiki:

    “The USS Liberty incident was an attack on a United States Navy technical research ship, USS Liberty, by Israeli Air Force jet fighter aircraft and Israeli Navy torpedo boats, on June 8, 1967, during the Six-Day War.[2] The combined air and sea attack killed 34 crew members (naval officers, seamen, two Marines, and one civilian), wounded 170 crew members, and severely damaged the ship.[3] At the time, the ship was in international waters north of the Sinai Peninsula, about 25.5 nmi (29.3 mi; 47.2 km) northwest from the Egyptian city of Arish.”

    The official story is this was a case of mistaken identity. Maybe so, although many dispute the official version. But it stands as a reminder that Isreal can and does slaughter innocent people, in this case Americans. And it goes on all the time in Gaza and the West Bank. They have attacked other nations in the region for attempting to develop nuclear power programs. They invaded Lebanon in the 80s in a largely unprovoked incident.

    Isreal should be treated like any other nation and held accountable for it’s rogue actions. But the point is not that Isreal is worse than other nations in the region. They do maintain some semblance of a democracy. It’s simply that the region is far more complicated than the standard right-wing mantra that Isreal is all good and loving while the Arab nations are evil, wretched bastards intent on destroying the western way of life. The U.S. would be far better off, safer and more benevolent in the eyes of the world if it recognized the complexity of the situation. We can demonstrate our intentions as a peacemaker by withdrawing all troops from the region immediately and working as a neutral intermediary to solve the regions problems through diplomacy.

    We’ve tried Brad’s way for 60+ years now and all it’s gotten us is an increase in violence that has manifested itself on American shores during the last decade. How much more evidence do we need that a sea-change in our thinking about this region is called for? Like they say if something continues to be tried and continues to fail that is the definition of insanity. And our foreign policy toward the middle east region is complete insanity.

  7. Brad

    So in the fog of war, one wrong target was hit? This makes Israel a nutball nation?

    Hey, how about the hundreds of thousands of German and Japanese civilians we killed on PURPOSE? (And I’m just talking conventional weapons here; never mind Hiroshima or Nagasaki.) What does that make us?

    And look, just a short way back in our history, at the vast numbers of our OWN troops we killed through stupidity and carelessness (back before we considered casualties a reason to surrender): The battle for Peleliu, now regarded by historians to have been largely unnecessary. Or the Battle of the Hurtgen Forest. Or Operation Market Garden (although that one may have been a reasonable risk; Americans just like to deride it because it was Montgomery’s idea).

    I still think the United States is a worthwhile nation in spite of all that, though. I look at the overall thrust of history, the bigger picture — not this or that incident.

  8. William Tucker

    @bud – We get it, you’re against all things military. How many times do we have to read your repeated message that you hate the military and how everything wrong in this world is military based.

    Just a guess, are you one of those old hippy nutjobs that stands protesting out front of the State House every Wednesday?

  9. bud

    William Tucker is your typical tea-party extremist. He brands anyone who disagrees with him as “hating” something. If it’s not hating Bush it’s hating the military. Show me where I’ve ever said I hate the military. Fact is I regard the U.S. military in much the same way as I do UPS or Ford Motor Company or the Fire Department. Those organizations do important things and applaud them when they do a good job.

    But the military can’t really do a good job when it’s sent to places where it doesn’t belong. It would be like UPS sending a package to the wrong house or Ford Motor Company selling a Mustang to a pre-schooler or the Fire Department shooting water at a house that’s being flooded instead of burning. I’ve got a thick enough skin to take criticism but at least get your facts right Mr. Tucker.

    And no, I’m not one of these hippy pragmatists but I can applaud them if it’s for a good cause.

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