TEHRAN – Researchers at Symantec Corporation have uncovered a version of the Stuxnet computer worm that was used to attack Iran’s nuclear program in November 2007, two years earlier than previously thought, according to Reuters.
Stuxnet is a computer worm that attacks industrial systems and spies on them and reprograms them.
Stuxnet, which is widely believed to have been developed by the United States and Israel, was discovered in 2010 after it was used to attack an Iranian nuclear facility. It was the first publicly known example of a computer worm being used to attack industrial machinery.
Symantec researchers said on Tuesday they have uncovered a piece of code, which they called “Stuxnet 0.5,” among the thousands of versions of the computer worm they recovered from infected machines.
They found evidence Stuxnet 0.5 was in development as early as 2005 and was deployed in 2007.
“It is really mind blowing that they were thinking about creating a project like that in 2005,” Symantec researcher Liam O’Murchu told Reuters.
“The report provides even more concrete evidence that the United States has been activity trying to derail the Iranian nuclear program since it was restarted under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s reign,” said John Bumgarner, an expert on cyber weapons who works as chief technology officer with the U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit.
Since Stuxnet’s discovery in 2010, security researchers have uncovered a handful of other sophisticated pieces of computer code they believe were developed in tandem to engage in espionage and warfare. These include Flame, Duqu and Gauss.
Stuxnet 0.5 was written using much of the same code as Flame, according to Symantec’s report, which was published at the RSA security conference in San Francisco, an event attended by more than 20,000 security professionals.
Symantec said it has now uncovered four versions of Stuxnet and there are likely others that have not been discovered yet. Researchers at Symantec and elsewhere are still trying to understand the full extent of the virus’s capabilities.
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