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As the Worm Turns: The Stuxnet Legacy

Its main priority isn’t to steal your identity or your money, but it’s a heck of a virus anyway. Industries worldwide try to defend against Stuxnet, a virus capable of surveillance and causing disastrous nightmares. The question is, who is behind the sophisticated malicious software? How is it any different from other malware and can it be stopped? In this article, author Larry Constantine, discusses the history of Stuxnet and how it can be stopped.

What is Stuxnet?

Stuxnet is a powerful virus that looks for specific files and monitors your computers. Although it infects Windows computers, Stuxnet is designed to target industrial computers that run with a specific type of Programmable Logic Controller (PLC), which runs all kinds of automated processes. Think controlling nuclear power plants, dams, sewage systems and power stationd. Once infected with Stuxnet, the virus then spies on the operations of the system, gathers information to take control and then proceeds to wreak havoc.

Shining Light on Stuxnet

The uncovering of the Stuxnet virus began with a small Belarus software security firm. It has been reported to be the group work of U.S. and Israel, with intentions to cripple the Iranian nuclear program. This virus differs from other viruses because it’s the first to be able to attack critical infrastructure. As for how to defend against Stuxnet, Constantine says:

There are no easy fixes, no Tuesday patches that will plug all the leaks. Many of the vulnerabilities in SCADA and PLC systems are architectural, hardwired into the very foundations of industrial automation. […]The flexibility and ease with which software can be updated and upgraded is also its biggest vulnerability in computer-controlled systems. Ultimately, we may need less reliance on computer-based monitoring and control and more on redundant systems in which PLCs are supplemented with old-fashioned hardwired gauges and safety overrides that have no stored programs whatsoever.

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About Gavin Martin

Information systems architect / technical design authority with over 20 years experience delivering small-scale through enterprise systems to commercial, finance and government customers.

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