Is the Stars Worm just a hoax?

Iran claims to have discovered a new malware threat targeting its critical infrastructure, but evidence is lacking

Iran claims to have discovered new malware it is calling the Stars worm attacking the nation's critical infrastructure. But, the lack of any sample of the new threat make many security experts skeptical.

A Mehr News Agency report quotes Iranian official Gholam-Reza Jalali explaining the ongoing efforts of Iranian security researchers to learn more about the malware. Jalali says there is nothing definitive yet from the investigation, adding, "(However), certain characteristics about the Stars worm have been identified, including that it is compatible with the (targeted) system and that the damage is very slight in the initial stage, and it is likely to be mistaken for executable files of the government."

However, security experts outside of Iran aren't quite sure what to make of the claims just yet. Andrew Storms, director of security operations for nCircle, says, ""Every AV vendor is clamoring to get their hands on this malware, yet so far Iran has not produced a sample of the code. Until a vendor or two can corroborate these claims this news falls into the propaganda category."

AppRiver's Fred Touchette explains why there is reason to be skeptical. "Up until this point there have been no details or proof of the attack. There has been no mention of the worm's targets or its possible intent, simply a claim that it has happened. In the Stuxnet case, security companies had samples to analyze and share, and were able to see first-hand the complexity of that worm."

Randy Abrams, director of technical education for ESET agrees. "Given the lack of opaqueness on the part of Iran, it seems unlikely that there has been anything new discovered and it is questionable as to whether or not anything at all was found, and if something was, whether or not it was truly malicious."

Sources from Symantec and McAfee say the same thing--no sample available, and no evidence currently to confirm or deny the claims of the Iranian government.

Storms does admit, though, that given the nature of the Stuxnet worm it would not be shocking to learn that a new malware threat was developed to target Iranian infrastructure or nuclear capabilities. On the other hand, it would also not come as a surprise to learn that Iran invented the Stars worm as a propaganda hoax.

For now, all we can really do is take the news with a grain of salt and healthy dose of skepticism. Touchette sums up, "Without any sort of sample or even an MD5 hash to compare to, unfortunately, we'll just have to wait and see."

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 malwarespamvirusesantispamwormsonline security

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

Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Bang and Olufsen Beosound Stage - Dolby Atmos Soundbar

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

ASUS ROG, ACRONYM partner for Special Edition Zephyrus G14

Learn more >

Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Nakamichi Delta 100 3-Way Hi Fi Speaker System

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Philips Sonicare Diamond Clean 9000 Toothbrush

Learn more >

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit for Nintendo Switch

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

SunnyBunny Snowflakes 20 LED Solar Powered Fairy String

Learn more >

Teac 7 inch Swivel Screen Portable DVD Player

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?