Snowden: US started rash of cyberattacks

The rise in cyberattacks used by governments around the world started with the United States, according to government leaker Edward Snowden.

In an upcoming interview with PBS, Snowden pointed the finger at the United States’s reported use of the Stuxnet virus against an Iranian nuclear facility, which was discovered in 2010.

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“It is important to highlight that we really started this trend in many ways when we launched the Stuxnet campaign against the Iranian nuclear program,” Snowden said, according to a transcript posted on Thursday.

The Stuxnet attack was one of the most destructive cyberattacks ever carried out, and destroyed about one-fifth of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges. The U.S. is believed to have worked with Israel to launch the attack during the Bush administration, as a way to prevent Iran from being able to develop a nuclear weapon.

“It is fair to say that it was the most sophisticated cyberattack that anyone had ever seen at the time,” the former federal contractor said. “And the fact that it was launched as part of a U.S. authorized campaign did mark a radical departure from our traditional analysis of the levels of risks we want to assume for retaliation.”

The Stuxnet virus on Iran led to Iranian targeting of Saudi Aramco, a major oil company, in 2012.

That was “sort of a Fisher Price, baby’s first hack kind of a cyber-campaign,” Snowden described. “It’s not sophisticated. It’s not elegant.”

While Snowden did not mention last year’s cyber intrusion of Sony Pictures Entertainment, which the Obama administration has blamed on North Korea, he indicated that an uneven stream of digital attacks are only likely to continue until governments get together and set a new path forward.

“We have to create international standards that say these kind of things should only ever occur when it is absolutely necessary, and that the response that the operation is tailored to be precisely restrained and proportionate to the threat faced,” Snowden told PBS. “And that’s something that today we don’t have, and that’s why we see these problems.”