While this latest attack appears to be a false alarm, it isn't as if Iranian officials are being needlessly paranoid. Iran has weathered other cyberattacks, such as one earlier this month from a virus named Batchwiper
that simply wipes data.
Back in April, another data-destroying virus called Wiper
attacked Iranian businesses. Viruses similar to Stuxnet, such as Duqu, which performs reconnaissance, have appeared in the wild.
The original Stuxnet attack is widely believed to have been created by either Israel
or the United States. It attacked centrifuges used to purify uranium, causing them to malfunction and fail. Iran maintains that its nuclear program is geared to power plants, while the United States and Israel insist the Islamic state is bent on producing nuclear weapons.
The Iranian government has been more pubic about its capabilities in cyber-defense, and there has been open cyber-warfare in a few cases, such as in the 2008 conflict between Russia and Georgia, in which Georgia accused Russia of targeted attacks
on government computer systems.
ANALYSIS: Silent Circle Promises Spy-Proof Calls
In the United States, the big concern is terrorism. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned of a "cyber
pearl harbor" as recently as October.
But there's some question as to what a terrorist might do in the first place. If some malicious group found a way to disable a power plant, it isn't clear that anyone would think it wasn't a "normal" outage, and one that would likely be fixed relatively quickly.
The story does show that even rumors can spread fast. As any chess player knows, sometimes the threat of an attack is as powerful as the attack itself.
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