'Stuxnet Is the Hiroshima of Cyber War'

Michael Gross takes a stab at writing the definitive magazine piece about Stuxnet, a computer worm that presumably attacked Iranian nuclear facilities, in this month's Vanity Fair. He's done some great reporting and this piece is, you know, written. If you're at all interested in Stuxnet, this is a must read.

Regardless of how well it worked, there is no question that Stuxnet is something new under the sun. At the very least, it is a blueprint for a new way of attacking industrial-control systems. In the end, the most important thing now publicly known about Stuxnet is that Stuxnet is now publicly known. That knowledge is, on the simplest level, a warning: America's own critical infrastructure is a sitting target for attacks like this. That aside, if Stuxnet really did attack Iran's nuclear program, it could be called the first unattributable act of war. The implications of that concept are confounding. Because cyber-weapons pose an almost unsolvable problem of sourcing--who pulled the trigger?--war could evolve into something more and more like terror. Cyber-conflict makes military action more like a never-ending game of uncle, where the fingers of weaker nations are perpetually bent back. The wars would often be secret, waged by members of anonymous, elite brain trusts, none of whom would ever have to look an enemy in the eye. For people whose lives are connected to the targets, the results could be as catastrophic as a bombing raid, but would be even more disorienting. People would suffer, but would never be certain whom to blame.

Stuxnet is the Hiroshima of cyber-war. That is its true significance, and all the speculation about its target and its source should not blind us to that larger reality. We have crossed a threshold, and there is no turning back.

Read the full story at Vanity Fair.

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