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Dec. 2012/Volume 14 / No. 10

Critical infrastructure protection hindered by difficulties, experts say

In 2010 security researchers uncovered a complex piece of malware that infiltrated the systems of an Iranian uranium enrichment facility. Once it penetrated the outer wall of the facility—presumably by simply being plugged into a Windows system via a thumb drive—Stuxnet was designed to cause serious damage, targeting the Natanz-based facility's industrial control system. It was programmed with one goal: Disrupt the nuclear enrichment processes by slightly altering conditions at the facility. The malware, which targeted four Windows zero-day vulnerabilities, was later tied to the United States and Israel. While both countries have neither confirmed nor denied a role in the attack, most experts agree that it represented the first time nation-states are believed to have unleashed a cyberweapon with destructive capabilities. The attack brought the issue of critical infrastructure protection to a fevered pitch with cyberwarfare and cyberespionage activities frequently making front page headlines. The owners of power generation, water...

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