January 17, 2011, 5:25 PM — The militaries of the U.S. and Israel have spent almost two years working in secret labs in the Negev desert looking for ways to slow or derail Iran's effort to develop nuclear weapons, according to a story published Saturday in the New York Times.
One part of that effort, the Times story said, was the dissection and test the Stuxnet worm, which Iranian government officials charge was modified and weaponized by the U.S. and Israel in an effort to destroy Iran's growing nuclear capabilities.
If either the U.S. or Israel had worked on Stuxnet, it would have been in labs like those in the Dimona complex, which houses Israel's own nuclear-weapons program, the story said.
Part of the intelligence effort is the operation of centrifuges almost identical to those run at Iran's primary nuclear facility, which Iran's government has acknowledged took some real damage from Stuxnet.
The worm is designed to identify and attack the type of SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) industrial-control software that runs the centrifuges used to separate and concentrate nuclear materials, but also run dams, electrical facilities, factories and other industrial systems.
More than 60,000 Windows-based systems were reportedly compromised by Stuxnet, but the damage to its nuclear-development systems wasn't irreparable.
Stuxnet managed to spoil some of the process by changing the speed at which the centrifuges rotate but didn't destroy the control systems or the centrifuges themselves.
Following the worm, a bomb attack killed one Iranian nuclear scientist and wounded another, the second such incident in two years.
U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said during a recent trip to Israel that she believed the Iranian effort had been set back by several years.
Neither Americans nor Israelis would address any role in developing or using the worm.