US key player in secret cyberattacks against Iran, says report

5 June 2012 (Last Updated June 5th, 2012 18:30)

A report has claimed that the US and Israel were secretly involved in the creation of the Stuxnet computer virus, which attacked Iranian uranium enrichment facilities to allegedly slow down the country's possible development of a nuclear weapon.

A report has claimed that the US and Israel were secretly involved in the creation of the Stuxnet computer virus, which attacked Iranian uranium enrichment facilities to allegedly slow down the country's possible development of a nuclear weapon.

The New York Times reported cited the book, 'Confront and Conceal: Obama's Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power'; it claims that US President Barack Obama ordered the development and spread of the virus to Tehran's facilities, which largely succeeded prior to accidental discovery by software security companies online in June 2010.

According to undisclosed senior current and former US officials, Obama decided to accelerate the classified effort, codenamed Olympic Games, initiated by his predecessor, to damage computer systems at Iran's Natanz uranium enrichment facility, despite concerns expressed by officials.

The book alleges that President Obama had asked his national security advisers, including the then Central Intelligence Agency director Leon Panetta, to accelerate the attacks, even after the virus 'escaped'.

"It's our view, as it is the view of everybody who handles classified information, that information is classified for a reason: that it is kept secret. It is intended not to be publicised, because publicising it would pose a threat to our national security."

Overall, the attack destroyed a total of 1,000 of Natanz's 5,000 centrifuges by making covert adjustments to the controlling machines, eventually spinning them at damagingly high speeds.

In response, White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest told the Washington Post that the material had been leaked for political advantage.

"It's our view, as it is the view of everybody who handles classified information, that information is classified for a reason: that it is kept secret," he said. "It is intended not to be publicised, because publicising it would pose a threat to our national security."

Iran had initially denied the Stuxnet attack, but later revealed that the virus had been contained by its experts; this was followed by the state announcing the launch of its own military cyber unit in 2011 to help counter attacks in cyberspace.

According to the newspaper, security experts are also trying to figure out the origins of another malware, called Flame, which attacked Iran last month, and is also present in Sudan, Lebanon, Syria and the Middle East.