Stuxnet infected Natanz plant via carefully selected targets rather than escape from it

Posted by   Virus Bulletin on   Nov 11, 2014

Five initial victims of infamous worm named.

Today, as Wired journalist Kim Zetter publishes her book Countdown to Zero Day on Stuxnet, researchers from Kaspersky and Symantec published blog posts that shine a light on how the malware spread to its likely target, the Natanz plant in Iran, and to hundreds of thousands of other computers.

Earlier stories had suggested that Stuxnet had somehow escaped from the plant, but because Stuxnet conveniently keeps a breadcrumb log that tracks how the worm has spreaded thus far, Symantec researcher Liam O'Murchu was able to conclude that all infections originated outside the Natanz plant.

Kim Zetter - Countdown to Zero Day

A blog post by Kapsersky researchers explains how it came that the malware still spread so widely.

The infection started at five different companies and organisations in Iran, now named by Kaspersky and all closely linked to the country's nuclear program. This helped Stuxnet reach the systems at its ultimate target, which was no trivial task, given that these systems weren't connected to the Internet.

However, errors and design flaws caused the worm to spread from one of targeted companies, Behpajooh Co, to a large number of computers inside and outside Iran. It was this spreading that led to Stuxnet's discovery in the summer of 2010.

Stuxnet spreading
  The first five victims of Stuxnet. Source: Kaspersky.

Stuxnet famously was the subject of two presentations during VB2010, that saw several global affairs journalists cross the ocean to attend the conference and even led to coverage at the BBC.

Unfortunately, in 2010 we didn't record conference presentations, but Mikko Hyppönen (F-Secure) recorded Liam O'Murchu's demonstration on how Stuxnet's SCADA component was able to make centrifuges spin faster than intended. He demonstrated this by writing a program that blew up a balloon and then writing malicious code that modified the program so that it would continue to pump air into the balloon making it eventually explode.

A review of Countdown to Zero Day will appear on this website later this month.

Posted on 11 November 2014 by Martijn Grooten



Latest posts:

VB2018 paper: Lazarus Group: a mahjong game played with different sets of tiles

The Lazarus Group, generally linked to the North Korean government, is one of the most notorious threat groups seen in recent years. At VB2018 ESET researchers Peter Kálnai and Michal Poslušný presented a paper looking at the group's various…

Book your VB2019 ticket now for a chance to win a ticket for BSides London

Virus Bulletin is proud to sponsor this year's BSides London conference, which will take place next week, and we have a number of tickets to give away.

First 11 partners of VB2019 announced

We are excited to announce the first 11 companies to partner with VB2019, whose support will help ensure a great event.

VB2018 paper: Fake News, Inc.

A former reporter by profession, Andrew Brandt's curiosity was piqued when he came across what appeared at first glance to be the website of a small-town newspaper based in Illinois, but under scrutiny, things didn’t add up. At VB2018 he presented a…

Paper: Alternative communication channel over NTP

In a new paper published today, independent researcher Nikolaos Tsapakis writes about the possibilities of malware using NTP as a covert communication channel and how to stop this.

We have placed cookies on your device in order to improve the functionality of this site, as outlined in our cookies policy. However, you may delete and block all cookies from this site and your use of the site will be unaffected. By continuing to browse this site, you are agreeing to Virus Bulletin's use of data as outlined in our privacy policy.