DHS: Stuxnet Clones May Target US Infrastructures

Image: Juan Fuertes

Officials from the Department of Homeland Security warned Congress yesterday that potential variants of the Stuxnet worm could threaten important U.S. infrastructures.

Roberta Stempfley and Sean P. McGurk from the DHS’ Office of Cyber Security and Communications appeared before House members and stressed the importance of strengthened cybersecurity efforts across the federal government. They said that a repurposed Stuxnet computer worm could infiltrate critical U.S. systems and cause a major threat to national security.

The two officials believe that because copies of the Stuxnet code have been publicly available, the increasing amount of available information enables attackers to develop variants that could target a larger number of systems.

“Our analysis quickly uncovered that sophisticated malware of this type potentially has the ability to gain access to, steal detailed proprietary information from, and manipulate the systems that operate mission-critical processes within the nation’s infrastructure,” Stempfley and McGurk said in their statement. “In other words, this code can automatically enter a system, steal the formula for the product being manufactured, alter the ingredients being mixed in the product, and indicate to the operator and the operator’s anti-virus software that everything is functioning normally.”

The Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team and DHS “remain vigilant and continue analysis and mitigation efforts of any derivative malware,” they added.

Stuxnet was first found on a computer in Iran in June 2010. The malware targets Siemens industrial software and equipment running on Microsoft Windows. It was believed to be targeting an Iranian uranium enrichment facility at Natanz and would become active once it had identified its target. Since then, ICS-CERT has been actively analyzing and reporting on Stuxnet.

Stempfley and McGurk urged lawmakers to continue collaborative cybersecurity operations between federal agencies and the private sector, as well as work to raise awareness of cybersecurity issues within the American public.

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