In January 2010, inspectors with the International Atomic Energy Agency noticed that centrifuges at an Iranian uranium enrichment plant were failing at an unprecedented rate. The cause was a complete mystery–apparently as much to the technicians replacing the centrifuges as to the inspectors observing them.
Then, five months later, a seemingly unrelated event occurred: A computer security firm in Belarus was called in to troubleshoot some computers in Iran that were crashing and rebooting repeatedly. At first, the firm’s programmers believed the malicious code on the machines was a simple, routine piece of malware. But as they and other experts around the world investigated, they discovered a mysterious virus of unparalleled complexity.
They had, they soon learned, stumbled upon the world’s first digital weapon. For Stuxnet, as it came to be known, was unlike any other virus or worm built before: Rather than simply hijacking targeted computers or stealing information from them, it escaped the digital realm to wreak actual, “physical “destruction on a nuclear facility.
I think this might possibly be one of the most interesting books I have ever read. It gives a detailed account of the US-Israeli effort to sabotage Iran’s nuclear enrichment program through a cyber-attack on the computers controlling the centrifuges. It has interviews with the specialists who originally found the virus and their efforts to slowly pick apart its code, the book then goes on to show how this virus affected the machinery at the nuclear plant. I found this fascinating, its incredible to see how a few thousand lines of code could have such devastating real world consequences. It really makes you think about the future now that computers are such a huge part of our daily life.
The book does however assume that the reader has some knowledge of computers. If you think viruses are those things you go to the doctor for and worms are found at the bottom of the garden you may want to give this one a miss.
*I received a copy of this book from Crown Publishing in exchange for an honest review.