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cyberwarfare against Iran?

July 9, 2009

iran-nuclear-testing-wide-horizontalA recent news article suggests one of Iran’s main nuclear vulnerabilities is its reliance on the Internet:

In the late 1990s, a computer specialist from Israel’s Shin Bet internal security service hacked into the mainframe of the Pi Glilot fuel depot north of Tel Aviv.  It was meant to be a routine test of safeguards at the strategic site, but it also tipped off the Israelis to the potential such hi-tech infiltrations offered for real sabotage.

“Once inside the Pi Glilot system, we suddenly realized that, aside from accessing secret data, we could also set off deliberate explosions, just by programming a re-route of the pipelines,” said a veteran of the Shin Bet drill.

The article later notes:

“Cyber war has the advantage of being clandestine and deniable,” Borg said, no?ting Israel’s considerations in the face of an Iranian nuclear program Tehran insists is peaceful. “But its effectiveness is hard to gauge, because the targeted network can often conceal the extent of damage or even fake the symptoms of damage. Military strikes, by contrast, have an instantly quantifiable physical effect.

Of course, the rerouting-pipelines-setting-off-explosions gambit has worked in the past – the US performed this type of sabotage as early as 1982 against the Soviet Union in a project codenamed “The Farewell Dossier.”

Natanz-092002Cyber-sabotage has already had some measurable effect against clandestine nuclear programs.

For example, it came to light that the US was successful in crippling some Iranian components, including introducing nonworking vacuum pumps to Libya, and (with alleged Israeli assistance) sending two faulty transformers to Iran’s nuclear facility in Natanz, Iran.    These transformers eventually exploded in 2006.

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