Iran’s nuclear program spills out into the world’s computers in this true techno-whodunit by Wired senior reporter Zetter.
In the weird world of atomic policing, international agencies have only limited access to information under the best of circumstances—and still more limited when the regime is secretive. When Iran began to replace components at an unusually fast pace a few years ago, inspectors noticed. They had no way of knowing why, and the Iranians weren’t talking, but the cause was devilish: “Months earlier…someone had quietly unleashed a destructive digital warhead on computers in Iran…to sabotage Iran’s uranium enrichment program and prevent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from building a nuclear bomb.” That “someone” is the object of Zetter’s quest, and it would spoil her fun to tell who it turned out to be. Suffice it to say that, as she notes, there’s a whole Pandora’s box effect to the business of digital warfare and that once the identity of the aggressor was established, it became difficult for that party to cry out in moral aggrievement when other parties began to unleash similar warheads. Zetter writes lucidly about mind-numbingly technical matters, reveling in the geekery of malware and espionage, and she takes the narrative down some dark electronic corridors, as when she describes the deployment of a hidden Trojan horse designed to harvest transactional information specifically from Lebanese banks suspected of being involved in laundering Iranian funds. Readers don’t have to know steganography from a stegosaurus to follow the discussion, though some programming background is surely of help in following some of the more arcane details.
Governments, hackers and parties unknown are launching ticking computer time bombs every day, all coming to a laptop near you. Zetter’s well-paced study offers a sharp account of past mischief and a glimpse of things to come.