Iran: Stuxnet 'failed' to stop nuclear work, as virus reportedly stops operating

With the computer virus Stuxnet, which was designed to infiltrate and destroy Iran’s nuclear centrifuges, reportedly no longer operating as of midnight Sunday, Tehran is declaring that the cyber effort "failed" to derail its nuclear program.

The software's creators designed it to shut down after Sunday, The Christian Science Monitor first reported, and Iran's semi-official news organization, FARS News Agency, is celebrating the news by claiming that Iran's nuclear program is still going strong.

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“At one second past midnight Sunday, the United States' most powerful known cyber weapon will cease to operate after it failed to clandestinely infiltrate and then wreck Iran's nuclear fuel enrichment program,” FARS wrote in a story with a headline declaring “no major breakthrough” in deterring Iran’s nuclear work.

The White House declined to comment on the Monitor report on Stuxnet's alleged termination.

The rest of the FARS story reprints the story from the Monitor, but highlights that Iran's nuclear program lives on as Stuxnet dies.

The virus was linked to both the United States and Israel in a New York Times report last month that said the Stuxnet infiltration of Iran’s nuclear facility was a cyberattack launched by the United States.

The virus did covertly destroy Iranian centrifuges, but it was discovered in 2010 and ultimately did not completely halt Iran’s nuclear activity at its Natanz facility. The virus was put onto the facility’s offline computer network via thumb drive, the Times reported, but it went public after it got onto the Internet.

The Monitor reports that the virus has a self-destruct mechanism, with a “few lines of code” that will “order the program to stop working altogether in a pre-programmed, belated and ultimately unsuccessful bid to prevent it from being detected and deciphered.”

At this point, nearly all of the computers that had been infected with the virus have had their software patched and cleaned up, according to the Monitor.

Stuxnet was also linked to the Flame virus last week, with both being designed by Israel and the United States for use against Iran, according to The Washington Post.

The disclosure of U.S. involvement in the cyberattack — believed to be the first use of offensive cyberweapons by the United States — has drawn outrage in Washington over the leaked information.

Congress has vowed to investigate and write new laws to curb intelligence leaks in the wake of the Stuxnet story, and the FBI and Justice Department are investigating the Stuxnet leak as well as the leak of a double agent infiltrating al Qaeda in Yemen.

—This story was updated at 11:54 a.m.