The Stuxnet worm that has recently been heralded as the new generation of malware is now giving experts a lot more information about the reason for which it was created. Apparently, its purpose is to destroy centrifuges, which can be used for enriching uranium in nuclear reactors or nuclear weapons.
The way the Stuxnet worm works is by making quick changes to the rotational speed of motors, shifting them rapidly up and down. If these types of shifts were to happen in an active centrifuge, it would cause it to spin at revolutions fast enough to destroy itself, literally making the mechanism fly apart. What makes this attack even more insidious is that once the centrifuges are destroyed, the worm sets the settings back to the regular speed in an attempt to mask what had just happened.
Iran, which has just announced that it created the next generation of centrifuges capable of enriching uranium up to six times faster then ever before, seems to be the primary target of the worm; they have recently reported experiencing multiple problems keeping their centrifuges running, with hundreds removed from active service since summer 2009.
Now that the worm was fully dissected and studied, we know exactly how it works, but the question of who wrote it still remains. One thing is for sure, it was written by a very well-funded group, such as a nation state of some sort, most likely in an attempt to slow down Iran’s controversial uranium-enrichment program.
However, according to Tom Parker, a computer security specialist at Securicon LLC, the attack might have slowed down the nuclear reactors thus far, but it is considered a failed operation as the end target knows they were the target, and the attacker won’t be able to use this technique again.