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United States Government Security

Obama Order Sped Up Wave of Cyberattacks Against Iran 415

Posted by Soulskill
from the cyber-bombshell dept.
diewlasing sends this excerpt from the NY Times: "From his first months in office, President Obama secretly ordered increasingly sophisticated attacks on the computer systems that run Iran's main nuclear enrichment facilities, significantly expanding America's first sustained use of cyberweapons, according to participants in the program. Mr. Obama decided to accelerate the attacks — begun in the Bush administration and code-named Olympic Games — even after an element of the program accidentally became public in the summer of 2010 because of a programming error that allowed it to escape Iran's Natanz plant and sent it around the world on the Internet. Computer security experts who began studying the worm, which had been developed by the United States and Israel, gave it a name: Stuxnet."
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Obama Order Sped Up Wave of Cyberattacks Against Iran

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  • Please don't stop (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Rooked_One (591287) on Friday June 01, 2012 @07:47AM (#40178729) Journal
    giving me reasons to think both the dummycrats and retardlicans are on the same side.

    ps - we aren't allow on their side.
  • Sophisticated (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SJHillman (1966756) on Friday June 01, 2012 @07:55AM (#40178797)

    Rather than ordering more sophisticated attacks, why not just order more effective attacks?

  • Not news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Friday June 01, 2012 @07:58AM (#40178821)
    I believe the old joke was, "In Russia, you can only choose the communist party. In America, you can choose the capitalist party, or the other capitalist party!"
  • by Extremus (1043274) on Friday June 01, 2012 @07:59AM (#40178827)

    Which brings up a interesting question: can a cyberwar escalate to a real war? If so, what would provoke that transition?

  • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Friday June 01, 2012 @08:01AM (#40178849)
    We are at war in Iran. We have always been at war with Iran.
  • hypocrisy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by joe545 (871599) on Friday June 01, 2012 @08:04AM (#40178881)
    With one hand, attack the nuclear computer systems of another country and with the other hand, demand extradition and decades of imprisonment for those who break into your systems to have a look around.
  • by Skarecrow77 (1714214) on Friday June 01, 2012 @08:05AM (#40178889)

    No it's not offical. this is just a reporter's opinion sourced from conversations with people whose names he won't reveal at times he won't reveal, who know things that nobody should know. for instance, he details the exact contents of a meeting that consisted of 3 people, president Obama, vice president Biden, and (At the time) CIA director Leon Panetta. For him to have this conversation, it means he has interviewed either the president, the vice president, or Panetta on this. Fat fucking chance.

    It's probably true, but no it's no way in hell close to "offical".

  • Re:hypocrisy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Friday June 01, 2012 @08:07AM (#40178907)
    America represents all that is good, remember? Any attack on America, no matter how insignificant, is an attack on good and is therefore evil.
  • by Skarecrow77 (1714214) on Friday June 01, 2012 @08:08AM (#40178937)

    I'd guess non-negligable damage to economic interests, or more likely physical damage to material assets... like say using a virus to cause physical damage to a nuclear weapons production facil...oh shit.

  • by Skarecrow77 (1714214) on Friday June 01, 2012 @08:10AM (#40178955)

    Exactly, that's why the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the War in the Gulf, the War in Iraq, and the War in Afghanistan all never happened.

    they were "police actions" goddamit.

  • Unnamed Sources? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Post-O-Matron (1273882) on Friday June 01, 2012 @08:13AM (#40178973)

    I don't understand one thing - all of this is based on David Sanger's book, which in turn is based on "unnamed US, European and Israeli sources".

    Other than the author's reputation, do we have anything resembling evidence that this isn't just a science fiction book being sold?

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@nOsPam.gmail.com> on Friday June 01, 2012 @08:13AM (#40178979) Journal

    First thought: Who's the source on this? Everybody suspected it was the US or the Israelis, but is this reliable?

    Well, let's see ... would Obama be the kind of person to do this? His track record so far [nytimes.com]:

    Mr. Obama decimated Al Qaeda’s leadership. He overthrew the Libyan dictator. He ramped up drone attacks in Pakistan, waged effective covert wars in Yemen and Somalia and authorized a threefold increase in the number of American troops in Afghanistan. He became the first president to authorize the assassination of a United States citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico and played an operational role in Al Qaeda, and was killed in an American drone strike in Yemen. And, of course, Mr. Obama ordered and oversaw the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

    Now considering all that, um, I think ordering a speed up of cyberattacks on Iran where no one dies might be something he does on a whim over coffee on a given morning.

    Second thought, while reading through the article: Wow, that's pretty badass.

    That's what I don't understand. Everyone has this notion that Obama is some peace loving hippie. At his Nobel Prize announcement, he basically justified going to war with anyone who gave USA the stink eye. He has been more aggressive (albeit more subtle) than George W. Bush and will probably cause problems for Romney who wants to paint him as an indecisive leader that let Libya and Syria happen [nytimes.com]. But the funny thing is that for all everyone sees him as a harbinger of peace, he sure hasn't been acting like it. And it's probably going to be obvious come this next election when people start looking at his track record ...

  • by isorox (205688) on Friday June 01, 2012 @08:19AM (#40179029) Homepage Journal

    acts of cyberterrorism would be considered acts of war, right?

    Only when perpetrated by the bad guys

    Remember the invasion of Afghanistan was a Police action, but Iraq's invasion of Kuwait was an invasion

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 01, 2012 @08:23AM (#40179059)

    Just goes to show that an air gap isn't going to save you, if your attacker is keen.

  • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Friday June 01, 2012 @08:25AM (#40179087)

    The U.S. has a remarkable history of fighting people that we ourselves have trained and armed in some earlier coup. That may have something to do with the fact that meddling in other country's interest may have short-term benefit, but it can (and frequently does) backfire and produce long-term problems. Iran is a great example. We overthrow [wikipedia.org] their democratically-elected government to put in our figurehead [wikipedia.org] so we can get their oil. Worked great until 1979. Now we've spent the last 30 years with a country that despises us.

  • by iserlohn (49556) on Friday June 01, 2012 @08:25AM (#40179089) Homepage

    In a way you are right - perception trumps reality. However, Obama's also chose his targets well. Unlike Bush which steamrolled his way into a bad situation with Iraq, Obama actually put some thought into the exit scenarios before pushing ahead with his agenda covertly. That contributes to the efficacy in these relatively low-key operations.

  • Re:Oh great (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gordonjcp (186804) on Friday June 01, 2012 @08:25AM (#40179091) Homepage

    Every time you go to use the word "muzzie" like that, replace "Muslim" with "Jew" and run the sentence through your head before you say it.

    Does it still sound like a clever thing to say?

  • by DerekLyons (302214) <(fairwater) (at) (gmail.com)> on Friday June 01, 2012 @08:42AM (#40179243) Homepage

    Other than the author's reputation, do we have anything resembling evidence that this isn't just a science fiction book being sold?

    This is Slashdot. We don't need evidence if the story confirms our prejudices.

  • Re:Not news (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dragon Bait (997809) on Friday June 01, 2012 @08:47AM (#40179291)

    I believe the old joke was, "In Russia, you can only choose the communist party. In America, you can choose the capitalist party, or the other capitalist party!"

    Yeah, but neither one really cares about freedom, capitalism, or free markets except when thumping their chests and running for office. Both are run by Mrs. Grundy who thinks she knows how to live your life better than you do.

  • by krammit (540755) on Friday June 01, 2012 @08:55AM (#40179393) Homepage
    The late, great Bill Hicks said it best: I'm so sick of arming the world and then sending troops over to destroy the fucking arms, you know what I mean? We keep arming these little countries, then we go and blow the shit out of them. We're like the bullies of the world, you know. We're like Jack Palance in the movie Shane, throwing the pistol at the sheep herder's feet: "Pick it up."
    "I don't wanna pick it up mister, you'll shoot me."
    "Pick up the gun."
    "Mister, I don't want no trouble, huh. I just came down town here to get some hard rock candy for my kids, some gingham for my wife. I don't even know what gingham is, but she goes through about 10 rolls a week of that stuff. I ain't looking for no trouble, mister."
    "Pick up the gun."

    Boom, boom.

    "You all saw him. He had a gun."
  • by Nidi62 (1525137) on Friday June 01, 2012 @08:56AM (#40179413)

    Only when perpetrated by the bad guys

    Remember the invasion of Afghanistan was a Police action, but Iraq's invasion of Kuwait was an invasion

    Apples and oranges. Iraq invaded Kuwait for 2 reasons: their oil, and they wanted better access to the Gulf. The US invaded Afghanistan in response to an attack that was made possible through the materiel and other support of the Taliban government. Iraq went into Kuwait to steal oil. What did the US go in to Afghanistan to take? Bases? We didn't need bases in Afghanistan. They have negligible amounts of oil, we don't need their poppy and marijuana, nor their natural gas. You're comparing 2 different actions with 2 completely different motivations and justifications.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 01, 2012 @08:58AM (#40179427)

    The only fact I see in all this is: The USA has not officially taken responsibility for an international incident.

    This story is by someone making sensationalist claims to sell a book, and the NY Times is helping promote it.

    As usual, the NY Times reporter relies on anonymous sources. No one knows how reliable they are. No one knows who they are.

    The NY Times and their anonymous sources are known to be wrong, like the WMD in Iraq. So we trust them now?

    The NY Times is known to make up news, such as Jason Blair. Can anything they say about Stuxnet be independently verified as being correct? No?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 01, 2012 @08:59AM (#40179445)
    Any government that holds secret wars is extremely corrupt. That taxpayer pays for tinkering that almost always causes more trouble, giving the secret agencies more work and more demands on the taxpayers.
  • Got to love how Obama went from "Blackberry Candidate" to "Cyber Sabotage & Drone 'Secret Kill List' President". He's clearly in love with the unaccountable power that technology offers.

    It's sickening to see how everyone in the US political establishment (Democrats, Republicans ie. all "respectable" people) cheer when the executive branch orders drone assassinations abroad. And boy do they love how "clean" and "efficient" those are. Hey, no Americans were hurt, the public loves to hear about the military killing bad guys and since these are conducted in remote areas, the US government doesn't even have to deal with the bad PR of "weeping widows" videos. It's all good! Who needs to seek Congress approval for declaring war, when technology allows you to wage a permanent and global secret war?

    It is believed that having more democracies around will ultimately increase world stability because democracies loath going to war and the voting public sees it as a last resort solution. Well, so far the biggest democracy in the west seems to have a giant boner for secret drone wars. Well, its executive branch at least, the public doesn't need to hear know about it in details, those informations are classified you see, national security and all.

    Don't these people realize the real damage caused by drones strikes? They are breeding generations of new enemies. The next time terrorists successfully blow up Americans or Americans allies, ask yourself: how would you react if people from your home town/area/country were droned in the night by a foreign power?

    And if you were Iranian and you heard that the US is actively trying to sabotage your country's nuclear program, wouldn't that increase your support for the Iranian government and its policy to get nuclear technology, even when you actually loath Ahmadinejad and his authoritarian regime?
  • Re:hypocrisy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nidi62 (1525137) on Friday June 01, 2012 @09:09AM (#40179553)
    You do realize pretty much every country both commits espionage and has laws against espionage against itself, right?
  • by kilfarsnar (561956) on Friday June 01, 2012 @09:22AM (#40179707)

    A story like this doesn't just magically happen. It's not wikileaked. So why would someone want this story in the public? Could it be so that tension between the USA and Iran ratchets up? Because that could induce a whole lot more spending on the military. And all those people who aren't going to be making buckets of money from Iraq and Afghanistan will either need to adjust their standard of living downwards, or find new sources of income. Getting military with China is a bad idea, North Korea is too close to China - look what happened last time - it's the only reason there is a North Korea. Nope: better to pick on a country more isolated.

    Thank you for providing an example of how people should interpret the news. Many still think the news is there to inform them, when in actuality it is there to tell them what to think. "Why would somebody want this story public?" is always the right question to ask when dealing with any spokesperson or press agent, corporate or government.

  • by Darth Snowshoe (1434515) on Friday June 01, 2012 @09:29AM (#40179813)

    Not ever from there, but I want to object to the way the city of Chicago has been turned into political invective. If I said "Everybody from Dallas is a jackass", that would be just plain wrong. But somehow NYC and now Chicago are always fair targets. And if the next Democratic president were from, say, Toledo, then I'm sure suddenly being from the Toledo would be a tremendous mark against him.

    I'm pretty certain Mr. Obama did not learn any political tricks from Richard Daley, who died in 1976 and is the only mayor of Chicago most people can name besides the current one. I think it's fair to let the president be defined by his own actions rather than geographic location.

    When you refuse, in an argument, to let the other side describe themselves in a term that is neutral and descriptive, you remove yourself from the group of civil and persuadable actors.

  • by cdrguru (88047) on Friday June 01, 2012 @09:45AM (#40180059) Homepage

    The problem with this kind of journalism is that we can sit back and say that of course this guy doesn't have the real scoop. But why wouldn't someone high up in Iran not take this to his boss and say "See, they admit it!" The logical followup from Iran is to step up actions, unleash the dogs of war and start preparing to take out Tel Aviv.

    Sure it is nice the people in the US are free to come up with stuff like this and "theorize" about it. The problem is that the separation between the journalist and reality may not be quite so apparent to those on the other side of this. This is actually an extremely provocative statement, supposedly from informed sources in the US government. So provocative in fact as to pretty much dare Iran to do something about it.

    It doesn't matter that we can laugh and say it is all BS. It might not appear that way in Iran. And it isn't going to be a subject of humor to them, ever.

  • by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki@NOspAM.gmail.com> on Friday June 01, 2012 @10:03AM (#40180293) Homepage

    Of course not. Just like Van Jones and the large variety of environmental groups looked the other way on Obama's handling of the Gulf oil spill. Hell the guy was even bold enough to come right out and say it. [hotair.com] They're just hypocrites, so no big shock.

  • by flyingsquid (813711) on Friday June 01, 2012 @10:57AM (#40180929)

    Given that, it absolutely has to be authorized from the big O himself. Specifically, the content of the article is from a book http://www.randomhouse.com/book/202541/confront-and-conceal-by-david-e-sanger [randomhouse.com]

    This entire fucking reveal is nothing but a campaign stunt by Obama. What sort of ratfucking moron admits to intelligence ops just for a campaign boost. Oh wait, it's the chicago politician in the white house.

    I think you're being a bit of a troll here, but I actually agree with your take on things. The level of detail in the article is really striking, and suggests that the author talked to people who were closely involved in the decision-making process. To release this kind of information about a classified intelligence project without authorization would be a serious breach of security, if not treason. Given that the Obama Administration hasn't made a huge deal about this article, or gone on a witch-hunt looking for the leaker, it seems safe to say that this story was released with the blessing of the White House, and that this was done for political purposes.

    As for the political angle, I can think of two possibilities. One is that taking credit for this (the article goes out of the way to minimize the role of the Israelis) is a way of showing off U.S. power and threatening Iran and other nations who pursue W.M.D. They're saying, "it doesn't matter how clever you are in burying your program, we can still shut it down". That threat could come in handy in future negotiations with Iran and North Korea.

    The other angle, as you note, is the election year angle. The article goes out of the way to emphasize Obama's role here. The key line here is "'From his first days in office, he was deep into every step in slowing the Iranian program — the diplomacy, the sanctions, every major decision,' a senior administration official said". Biden is depicted as "fuming", while the president is cool and collected and making tough calls. It paints a very flattering picture, which is hardly surprising given that it's a bunch of Obama Administration guys speaking to a New York Times reporter. However, as the article describes it, the program was actually begun during the Bush Administration and was well underway by the time Obama took office. All Obama did was continue with Bush's program, but it sounds like he's trying to take a lot of the credit, which doesn't quite seem fair. I think Bush was a disaster as a President. But still, you can't have it both ways, and claim that you inherited a bad economy from Bush, but then turn around and take credit for a program that he started and put into action.

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Friday June 01, 2012 @10:57AM (#40180931) Journal

    The logical followup from Iran is to step up actions, unleash the dogs of war and start preparing to take out Tel Aviv.

    This is only a logical followup if Iran thinks they can win. And that's not a war the Iranian regime will survive, because Israel has second-strike capability.

    The logical followup from Iran is to harden their defenses, which is what they have been doing.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 01, 2012 @11:07AM (#40181029)

    So, every major government in human history. Got it.

  • by Bob9113 (14996) on Friday June 01, 2012 @11:18AM (#40181153) Homepage

    unleash the dogs of war and start preparing to take out Tel Aviv.

    Iran is not seriously considering attacking Tel Aviv. Not now, not any time in the near future. They know exactly what would happen if they attacked Israel. The only possible exception is if they think we are about to attack (in the conventional, air assault and invasion sense, not limited cyberwar) and they are going to get wiped out anyway. They may do some things that seem irrational from our Western perspective, but they are not stupid. They know that starting a shooting war with Israel would be suicide.

    Take a minute to really reflect on your hypothesis: What has Iran done -- not talked about, not nationalist tough guy rhetoric, I'm talking real military action -- that suggests they are irrational enough to attack Tel Aviv under the clear and present threat of getting twice what we gave Saddam?

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Friday June 01, 2012 @11:22AM (#40181219) Homepage

    What did the US go in to Afghanistan to take? Bases? We didn't need bases in Afghanistan. They have negligible amounts of oil, we don't need their poppy and marijuana, nor their natural gas.

    The key natural resource for the last 20 years in Afghanistan has been the prospect of oil and natural gas pipelines running from Caspian Sea region to the Indian Ocean. And waddaya know, as soon as the Karzai government backed by the US was in power, there were new agreements signed regarding oil and gas pipelines through Afghanistan.

    And Iraq is probably also about oil, as well, since the Project for a New American Century [newamericancentury.org] (membership including Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz) explicitly advocated the US taking control of all the major oil supplies in the world as a way of controlling everything else that was going on in the world.

  • by OrangeTide (124937) on Friday June 01, 2012 @11:29AM (#40181295) Homepage Journal

    "why we Americans can have nuclear power and nuclear weapons but other countries can't?"

    1. we have the bombs, so we get to make the rules.
    2. it is believed that widely available nuclear weapons in the hands of despots will result in them being used against civilian again.
    3. being a superpower is a relative thing, if everyone has the same capabilities then you're no longer a superpower.

    I realize 1 and 3 aren't nice, but I assume they enter into the equation. 2 is why your average American voters tends to support our government's attempts to limit access to nuclear weapons.

  • by Phrogman (80473) on Friday June 01, 2012 @05:41PM (#40187831) Homepage

    New Analogy: There's this tough thug in the neighborhood. He has a LOT of guns. He has used them to kill a LOT of people he disagreed with. Oh, sure, he claims to have a morale imperative to keep the neighborhood safe, but every time he uses his guns there is usually something in it for him too - stuff he can pick up cheap and give to his friends or keep for himself. Oh, many of his friends have a few guns too, but they are all his friends so there is no conflict over the fact that they are all armed - and are the only people who are armed.
    Now along comes someone new who decides they want a gun. True, the new arrival is a raving lunatic who is a bully that claims he wants to murder the local Jewish kid - so most people don't feel comfortable with him having a gun either, but that doesn't change the fact that the biggest bully locally is still armed to the teeth and the only one who has ever actually fired a gun at someone and killed them.

    I am not comfortable with Iran developing Nuclear Weapons, I am not comfortable with North Korea developing them either. I am not comfortable with the major superpowers like the US, Russia or China having them either. I just know that the bullies in charge are not going to let anyone new into the club, and they aren't going to get rid of their weapons either.

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