Today, Time magazine gave its “Person of the Year” honor to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, but another computer programer may have had a far greater impact on world events — the person (people?) who designed the “Stuxnet” virus that by a number of accounts has been a huge setback to the Iranian nuclear program.
The Jerusalem Post has spoken with the German computer whiz who has been studying the virus, and he’s concluded:
“It will take two years for Iran to get back on track,” Langer said in a telephone interview from his office in Hamburg “This was nearly as effective as a military strike, but even better since there are no fatalities and no full-blown war. From a military perspective, this was a huge success.”
Langer spoke to the Post amid news reports that the virus was still infecting Iran’s computer systems at its main uranium enrichment facility at Natanz and its reactor at Bushehr.
Last month, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nation’s nuclear watchdog, said that Iran had suspended work at its nuclear-field production facilities, likely a result of the Stuxnet virus.
According to Langer, Iran’s best move would be to throw out all of the computers that have been infected by the worm, which he said was the most “advanced and aggressive malware in history.” But, he said, even once all of the computers were thrown out, Iran would have to ensure that computers used by outside contractors were also clean of Stuxnet.
Obviously, there’s a lot that we don’t know. Israel is the leading suspect for creating the virus, but there’s no way of telling for sure, which is what’s so beautiful about it. The difficulty of resolving the Iranian nuclear crisis has always been that diplomacy would never convince the regime to abandon their program, Russia and China would never get them to agree to tough enough sanctions, and the military options would present tremendous operational difficulties and carry tremendous consequences. All the while, Iran was racing ahead with their program, while the clock ticked. Of course, even if reports are accurate, the “Stuxnet” virus didn’t resolve any of the bigger questions regarding Iran. But still, at the minimum, it bought the world more time without any human casualties.