Cyber SuperWeapon Targets China

6a00d8341bf7f753ef013487c077b9970c.jpg The Stuxnet computer worm  dubbed the world's "first cyber superweapon" by experts and which may have been designed to attack Iran's nuclear facilities has found a new target — China, infecting millions of computers around the country, state media reported this week. The Stuxnet worm copies itself and sends itself on to other computers in a network. It was found in June lurking on Siemens systems in India, Indonesia, Pakistan and elsewhere, but the heaviest infiltration appears to be in Iran, according to software security researchers.

Stuxnet is feared by experts around the globe as it can break into computers that control machinery at the heart of industry, allowing an attacker to assume control of critical systems that could make factory boilers explode, destroy gas pipelines or even cause a nuclear plant to malfunction.

The virus targets control systems made by German industrial giant Siemens commonly used to manage water supplies, oil rigs, power plants and other industrial facilities.

"This malware is specially designed to sabotage plants and damage industrial systems, instead of stealing personal data," an engineer surnamed Wang at antivirus service provider Rising International Software told the Global Times. "Once Stuxnet successfully penetrates factory computers in China, those industries may collapse, which would damage China's national security."

A top US cybersecurity official said last week that the country was analysing the computer worm but did not know who was behind it or its purpose.

"One of our hardest jobs is attribution and intent," Sean McGurk, director of the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC), told reporters in Washington.

"It's very difficult to say 'This is what it was targeted to do,'" he said of Stuxnet, which some computer security experts have said may be intended to sabotage a nuclear facility in Iran.

"The Stuxnet worm is a wake-up call to governments around the world," Derek Reveron, a cyber expert at the US Naval War School, was quoted as saying Thursday by the South China Morning Post. "It is the first known worm to target industrial control systems."

Jason McManus via AFP

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