Iran was prime target of SCADA worm

The Stuxnet worm affecting SCADA systems may have been spreading since as early as January

Computers in Iran have been hardest hit by a dangerous computer worm that tries to steal information from industrial control systems.

According to data compiled by Symantec, nearly 60 percent of all systems infected by the worm are located in Iran. Indonesia and India have also been hard-hit by the malicious software, known as Stuxnet.

Looking at the dates on digital signatures generated by the worm, the malicious software may have been in circulation since as long ago as January, said Elias Levy, senior technical director with Symantec Security Response.

Stuxnet was discovered last month by VirusBlokAda, a Belarus-based antivirus company that said it found the software on a system belonging to an Iranian customer. The worm seeks out Siemens SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) management systems, used in large manufacturing and utility plants, and tries to upload industrial secrets to the Internet.

Symantec isn't sure why Iran and the other countries are reporting so many infections. "The most we can say is whoever developed these particular threats was targeting companies in those geographic areas," Levy said.

The U.S. has a long-running trade embargo against Iran. "Although Iran is probably one of the countries that has the worst infections of this, they are also probably a place where they don't have much AV right now," Levy said.

Siemens wouldn't say how many customers it has in Iran, but the company now says that two German companies have been infected by the virus. A free virus scanner posted by Siemens earlier this week has been downloaded 1,500 times, a company spokesman said.

Earlier this year, Siemens said it planned to wind down its Iranian business -- a 290-employee unit that netted €438 million (US$562.9 million) in 2008, according to the Wall Street Journal. Critics say the company's trade there has helped feed Iran's nuclear development effort.

Symantec compiled its data by working with the industry and redirecting traffic aimed at the worm's command and control servers to its own computers. Over a three-day period this week, computers located at 14,000 IP addresses tried to connect with the command and control servers, indicating that a very small number of PCs worldwide have been hit by the worm. The actual number of infected machines is probably in the 15,000 to 20,000 range, because many companies place several systems behind one IP address, according to Symantec's Levy.

Because Symantec can see the IP address used by machines that try to connect with the command and control servers, it can tell which companies have been infected. "Not surprisingly, infected machines include a variety of organizations that would use SCADA software and systems, which is clearly the target of the attackers," the company said in its blog post Thursday.

Stuxnet spreads via USB devices. When an infected USB stick is viewed on a Windows machine, the code looks for a Siemens system and copies itself to any other USB devices it can find.

A temporary workaround for the Windows bug that allows Stuxnet to spread can be found here.

Robert McMillan covers computer security and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Robert on Twitter at @bobmcmillan. Robert's e-mail address is robert_mcmillan@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags malwareenergyManufacturingsymantecindustry verticals

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Robert McMillan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?