Fri, Oct 01 2010 | DebkaFile
Iran Bent on Avenging Cyber Attack, Asks for Outside Help to Stop Rampaging Malworm
Tehran this week secretly appealed to a number of computer security experts in West and East Europe with offers of handsome fees for consultations on ways to exorcize the Stuxnet worm spreading havoc through the computer networks and administrative software of its most important industrial complexes and military command centers.
Debkafile’s intelligence and Iranian sources report Iran turned for outside help after local computer experts failed to remove the destructive virus.
None of the foreign experts has so far come forward because Tehran refuses to provide precise information on the sensitive centers and systems under attack and give the visiting specialists the locations where they would need to work. They were not told whether they would be called on to work outside Tehran or given access to affected sites to study how they function and how the malworm managed to disable them. Iran also refuses to give out data on the changes its engineers have made to imported SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) systems, mostly from Germany.
The impression debkafile sources gained Wednesday, Sept. 29 from talking to European computer experts approached for aid was that the Iranians are getting desperate. Not only have their own attempts to defeat the invading worm failed, but they made matters worse: The malworm became more aggressive and returned to the attack on parts of the systems damaged in the initial attack.
One expert said: “The Iranians have been forced to realize that they would be better off not ‘irritating’ the invader because it hits back with a bigger punch.”
Looking beyond Iran’s predicament, he wondered whether the people responsible for planting Stuxnet in Iran – and apparently continuing to offload information from its sensitive systems – have the technology for stopping its rampage.
“My impression,” he said, “is that somebody outside Iran has partial control at least on its spread. Can this body stop malworm in its tracks or kill it? We don’t have that information at present,” he said. [Debkafile, Sept 29, 2010]
Tehran is bent on military action to settle scores with Israel and the United States whom it suspects of planting the malignant Stuxnet cyber worm in the computer systems of its nuclear, military and strategic infrastructure, debkafile’s military and US sources report. The timeline of this attack revolves around the state visit to Lebanon President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has scheduled for Oct. 13-14, during which he will tour the Israeli border.
Preying heavily on Iran too are the personal sanctions the United States has just imposed on its top military brass and ministers.
All this will no doubt come up in Syrian President Bashar Assad’s talks with Iranian leaders during his visit to Tehran Saturday, Oct. 2.
In its latest issue, DEBKA reported Friday, Oct. 1 that when Assad and Ahmadinejad last met in Damascus on Sept. 18, three days after the malworm surfaced, the Iranian president warned that his country wouldf retaliate for the cyber attack by military means. Its allies, Syria, Hizballah and Hamas were advised to prepare for Israel taking the opportunity to attack them.
A few days later, Syrian sources leaked word that during that first encounter, Assad had urged Ahmadinejad to postpone his trip to Lebanon. They did not explain why.
However, Friday, Oct. 1, Syrian and Lebanese sources disclosed that Israel’s northern border units had been placed on an elevated level of preparedness. The IDF spokesman did not deny the report, only pointing out that Israeli units on the borders with Lebanon and Syria had been on a high alert for some time and were keeping close watch on developments.
Aware of the incendiary tensions building up in its vicinity, Damascus is clearly taking pains to maintain a safe distance from any impending military conflagrations involving Iran, the United States and Israel.
Washington got involved when Wednesday, Sept. 29, President Barack Obama signed an executive order imposing sanctions on eight top Iranian officials, accusing them of serious human rights abuses, including the killing, torture, beating and rape of Iranian citizens since the country’s disputed 2009 presidential election.
DEBKA noted that this was the first time Washington had singled out top-flight Iranian military and security personages for personal penalties and imposed them without reference to Iran’s nuclear program.
Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, was additionally branded a criminal who should stand trial for murder. Also covered by this charges were Heydar Moslehi, Minister of Intelligence, Mostafa Mohammad Najjar, Interior Minister in charge of Iranian security and intelligence services, and Gen. Hossein Taeb, Deputy IRGC commander and head of the corps intelligence.
Obama only signed the sanctions order this week, whereas the eight officials’ crimes occurred more than a year ago in the wake of their crackdown on political opponents who charged the regime with falsifying the election. It would seem therefore that the US president acted with the intention of further dividing Iran’s leaders and adding to the perplexity and demoralization besetting them over their powerlessness to bring the destructive cyber worm under control.
The severity of the personal charges Washington brought against these Iranian powerhouses and their timing were certainly not lost on interested parties in the region. Debkafile’s Iranian sources do not believe the Islamic regime can afford to let Washington’s blunt assault on it’s the mainstays of its power go unchallenged. [DebkaFile, Oct 01, 2010]