Stuxnet Worm Delayed Iran's Nuclear Bomb

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JERUSALEM, Israel - The idea that Israel tested the Stuxnet computer worm at its own nuclear complex in Dimona in Israel's southern Negev Desert is "plausible," an Israeli expert said Tuesday.

The New York Times published a lengthy report Sunday assessing what it said was Israel's involvement in Stuxnet - the computer worm that took out an estimated 1,000 - about 20 percent - of Iran's uranium enrichment centrifuges by spinning them out of control.

Israel and the U.S. believe Iran is enriching uranium for use in nuclear bombs.

CBN News Jerusalem Correspondent Julie Stahl talks about what the Stuxnet worm means for Iran, Israel and the world, on CBN News Channel Morning News, Jan. 18. Click play for more.

According to the NYT's report, Israel and the U.S. tested Stuxnet on the same P-1 centrifuges that Iran uses at Israel's Dimona facility.

No one in Israel or the U.S. has confirmed or denied the reports. But one unnamed senior Israeli intelligence official was quoted in Time magazine saying, "it's good that the Iranians think we have these capabilities."

Yael Shahar, with the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, said the worm would definitely have had to go through some kind of testing, otherwise it would not have been so effective.

"They would have had to test the worm on the centrifuges in order to make sure it would have the effect they wanted," Shahar told CBN News.

"But they got to the centrifuges via the Programmable Logic Controllers [PLCs]. That means they would have needed to know exactly which type of PLCs were in place and what programs were accessing them. That's the tricky part," she added.

According to Shahar, the bad news is that any industry in the world is now vulnerable to this new level of cyber-warfare, from electricity grids to food manufacturing plants because they use the same system.

However, the "good part" is that the first demonstration of this cyber-warfare could have been by terrorists. Instead, she said, "no lives were lost and the victim was a genocidal regime."

She also noted that the Stuxnet worm has shown the weaknesses in the systems that can now be corrected.

Despite the success of the Stuxnet worm in seemingly setting back the Iranian nuclear program, some experts are asking what's next.

Emily Landau, director of the Arms Control and Regional Security program at the Institute of National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, said she doesn't like the discussion about timelines of when Iran might get the bomb because it actually obscures the issue.

Landau told CBN News the delay Stuxnet supposedly caused in the development of the program is good, but the question is what the West will do with the time it has bought.

In Landau's view, the U.S. needs to enter into tough negotiations with Iran that have nothing to do with a "confidence building process."

Until now, talks have not succeeded she said because the West is not united. The P5 plus one (Britain, China, France, Russia, the U.S. - all United Nations Security Council members - plus Germany) undermine their own ability to deal with Iran.

It doesn't help, she said, when U.S. officials say publicly that a military attack on Iran would be a disaster. Iran doesn't feel that it is under pressure so it just continues to pursue its nuclear ambitions, she added.

Prof. Efraim Inbar, with the BESA Center for Strategic Studies, agrees that the Stuxnet delay is only temporary. But he believes the world will have to get tougher than just talking.

"I think eventually, unless there is a change of regime in Iran, the free world will have no choice but to take military action in order to destroy the key components of the Iranian nuclear program, particularly the uranium enrichment facilities," Inbar told CBN News.

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Julie Stahl

Julie Stahl

CBN News Mideast Correspondent

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