Recently, the New York Times ran an article on a topic that I, like many IT professionals, have been following for several months. The article discussed the likely origin, destination and purpose of a computer virus that the Times called "the most sophisticated cyberweapon ever deployed."
The story begins at the Dimona complex in the Negev desert in Israel, reported to be the heart of Israel's never-acknowledged nuclear program. It was here, sources report, that a United States and Israeli operation developed and tested the computer worm that would come to be known as Stuxnet. The complex afforded the use of equipment identical to those used by Iran at two of its nuclear facilities.
In June 2009, Stuxnet made its debut as an outbreak in Iran and some parts of India. It was quickly classified by leading software security companies as just another malware product, but one that did not seem particularly effective or destructive. It was around this time, however, that a small cyber security firm in Hamburg began to decipher the virus. Grueling work revealed a level of sophistication never before seen in a worm, likely indicating that the developers were a nation-state with a very specific goal in mind. Further analysis of the code revealed that the worm's destructive capability only came alive when it detected the presence of a very specific configuration of controllers, typically found in a centrifuge plant.
Currently, we know that Stuxnet destroys banks of centrifuge systems by making them spin too fast. Another ingenious aspect of the code reads like something out of a movie. The virus secretly records what normal operations in the nuclear plant look like; then, when its time to destroy the machinery, plays those readings back to the operators much like the playback of a normal video feed in a bank-heist film. According to analysts, Stuxnet has set Iran's nuclear enrichment development back two or three years.
Although this virus represents the most robust attack, to date, in this relatively new front of warfare, in the broader context of human history, there is nothing new or surprising about this type of attack. History shows that from the earliest records to the present day there is hardly any time when war hasn't been waged while leveraging every strategy and technology available. King David lamented on this sad aspect of the wickedness of mankind in Psalm 140:1–2: "Deliver me, O Lord, from evil men; preserve me from violent men, who plan evil things in their hearts; they continually gather together for war."
While the effects of this potent cyberweapon may benefit the world by delaying the development of Iranian nuclear weapons, the next cyberweapon may strike the West with devastating results. Because of our dependence on technology, we are more vulnerable than anywhere else in the world. An attack on our power grid during a heat wave would likely result in the deaths of many of our elderly citizens, not to mention the danger to hospitals and clinics. An attack on our financial institutions would erode confidence and do great harm at a time when the US economy and that of the rest of the world is still recovering. These are just two vulnerabilities among the thousands that have been discussed.
Such considerations and the history of man should sober us to the fact that mankind has never known the way to true peace. However, there is good news; a world-encompassing and benevolent Kingdom is coming. This is the Kingdom that Jesus Christ came to proclaim and urged His followers to seek (Matthew 6:33, Mark 1:14).
At the return of Jesus Christ and the establishment of His Kingdom, mankind will finally fulfill that famous prophecy of Isaiah: "They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore" (Isaiah 2:4).
There is indeed reason for hope. An era of peace and abundance like mankind has never known is coming. Learn more by reading our booklet The World Ahead: What Will It Be Like?