Stuxnet is a computer worm discovered in June 2010. Stuxnet initially spreads via Microsoft Windows, and targets Siemens industrial software and equipment. While it is not the first time that hackers have targeted industrial systems, it is the first discovered malware that spies on and subverts industrial systems,
The worm initially spreads indiscriminately, but includes a highly specialized malware payload that is designed to target only Siemens supervisory control and data acquisition systems that are configured to control and monitor specific industrial processes. Stuxnet infects PLCs by subverting the Step-7 software application that is used to reprogram these devices.
Different variants of Stuxnet targeted five Iranian organizations, with the probable target widely suspected to be uranium enrichment infrastructure in Iran; Siemens stated on 29 November that the worm has not caused any damage to its customers, but the Iran nuclear program, which uses embargoed Siemens equipment procured secretly, has been damaged by Stuxnet. Kaspersky Lab concluded that the sophisticated attack could only have been conducted "with nation-state support". This was further supported by the F-Secure's chief researcher Mikko Hyppönen who commented in a Stuxnet FAQ, "That's what it would look like, yes".
It has been speculated that Israel In May 2011, the PBS program Need To Know cited a statement by Gary Samore, White House Coordinator for Arms Control and Weapons of Mass Destruction, in which he said, "we're glad they are having trouble with their centrifuge machine and that we – the US and its allies – are doing everything we can to make sure that we complicate matters for them", offering "winking acknowledgement" of US involvement in Stuxnet. According to Daily Telegraph, a showreel that was played at a retirement party for the head of the Israel Defense Forces, Gabi Ashkenazi, included references to Stuxnet as one of his operational successes as the IDF chief of staff.
On 1 June 2012, an article in The New York Times said that Stuxnet is part of a U.S. and Israeli intelligence operation called "Operation Olympic Games", started under President George W. Bush and expanded under President Barack Obama.
The worm was at first identified by the security company VirusBlokAda in mid-June 2010. Its name is derived from some keywords discovered in the software. but the first variant of the worm appeared in June 2009. In the United Kingdom on 25 November 2010, Sky News reported that it had received information from an anonymous source at an unidentified IT security organization that Stuxnet, or a variation of the worm, had been traded on the black market. However, other security experts disagreed.
A study of the spread of Stuxnet by Symantec showed that the main affected countries in the early days of the infection were Iran, Indonesia and India:
Unlike most malware, Stuxnet does little harm to computers and networks that do not meet specific configuration requirements; "The attackers took great care to make sure that only their designated targets were hit...It was a marksman’s job." While the worm is promiscuous, it makes itself inert if Siemens software is not found on infected computers, and contains safeguards to prevent each infected computer from spreading the worm to more than three others, and to erase itself on 24 June 2012.
For its targets, Stuxnet contains, among other things, code for a man-in-the-middle attack that fakes industrial process control sensor signals so an infected system does not shut down due to abnormal behavior.). It is initially spread using infected removable drives such as USB flash drives, and written in several different programming languages which is also irregular for malware. Both compromised certificates have been revoked by VeriSign.
Two websites in Denmark and Malaysia were configured as command and control servers for the malware, allowing it to be updated, and for industrial espionage to be conducted by uploading information. Both of these websites have subsequently been taken down as part of a global effort to disable the malware. once installed on a Windows system Stuxnet infects project files belonging to Siemens' WinCC/PCS 7 SCADA control software, and subverts a key communication library of WinCC called s7otbxdx.dll. Doing so intercepts communications between the WinCC software running under Windows and the target Siemens PLC devices that the software is able to configure and program when the two are connected via a data cable. In this way, the malware is able to install itself on PLC devices unnoticed, and subsequently to mask its presence from WinCC if the control software attempts to read an infected block of memory from the PLC system.
The entirety of the Stuxnet code has not yet been disclosed, but its payload targets only those SCADA configurations that meet criteria that it is programmed to identify. Stuxnet requires specific slave variable-frequency drives to be attached to the targeted Siemens S7-300 system and its associated modules. It only attacks those PLC systems with variable-frequency drives from two specific vendors: Vacon based in Finland and Fararo Paya based in Iran. Furthermore, it monitors the frequency of the attached motors, and only attacks systems that spin between 807 Hz and 1210 Hz. The industrial applications of motors with these parameters are diverse, and may include pumps or gas centrifuges.
Stuxnet installs malware into memory block DB890 of the PLC that monitors the Profibus messaging bus of the system. Siemens also advises immediately upgrading password access codes.
The worm's ability to reprogram external PLCs may complicate the removal procedure. Symantec's Liam O'Murchu warns that fixing Windows systems may not completely solve the infection; a thorough audit of PLCs may be necessary. Despite speculation that incorrect removal of the worm could cause damage, Siemens reports that in the first four months since discovery, the malware was successfully removed from the systems of twenty-two customers without any adverse impact.
Control system security
Prevention of control system security incidents, such as from viral infections like Stuxnet, is a topic that is being addressed in both the public and the private sector.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security National Cyber Security Division operates the Control System Security Program . The program operates a specialized Computer Emergency Response Team, conducts a biannual conference, provides training, publishes recommended practices, and provides a self-assessment tool. As part of a Department of Homeland Security plan to improve American computer security, in 2008 it and the Idaho National Laboratory worked with Siemens to identify security holes in the company's widely used Process Control System 7 and its software Step 7. In July 2008 INL and Siemens publicly announced flaws in the control system at a Chicago conference; Stuxnet exploited these holes in 2009.