Talking to a computer security researcher about Stuxnet is like asking an art critic to describe the finer points of the Mona Lisa. The world's top cybersecurity minds are absolutely in awe.
Stuxnet, which was discovered in June and has since spread to millions of machines around the world, is the most sophisticated computer attack we've ever seen. Though its true purpose is unknown—teams of experts across the globe are poring through the code in an effort to divine its intentions—the deviousness of its design has prompted many researchers to call it a "cyber-weapon," one perhaps created by the United States or Israel to disrupt Iran's nuclear program.
Why should we think of Stuxnet as a weapon? Because it's the first digital worm known to infiltrate and secretly reprogram machines that run sensitive industrial processes—power plants, pipelines, telecommunications centers, airports, and ships. Iranian officials have said that Stuxnet infected employee computers at the country's Bushehr nuclear-power plant. Siemens, the German conglomerate, says that Stuxnet has already breached at least 14 factories running its software.
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