Russian security expert Eugene Kaspersky says that the infamous Stuxnet computer virus infected the International Space Station after being installed through a USB stick carried on board by a Russian cosmonaut.
Speaking to reporters at a National Press Club event in Canberra, Australia, last week, Kaspersky also says the virus infected a nuclear power plant in Russia and "badly damaged" their internal infrastructure. Kaspersky refused to provide details or elaborate on how the virus affected ISS operations or how engineering crews cleaned up the mess left behind by the world's most notorious computer virus.
The virus was allegedly jointly created by U.S. and Israeli military forces to seriously damage Iran's nuclear program. (Coincidentally, that relationship is very complicated right now.) Stuxnet became public knowledge after it malfunctioned -- or worked a little too well -- and infected millions of computers worldwide.
An interesting thing to note about the Russian cases is how neither system was connected to the internet when the infections occurred, suggesting the virus was deliberately planted by a foreign agent. Normally systems disconnected from the Internet's wild west are considered secure since a hacker would need direct, physical access to the system in order to install the virus. (Or they would need to trick someone with access into doing it for them.) Stuxnet was meant for a specific target, but once it spread across the world, the code was available for anyone -- including malicious independent hackers or cyber terrorists -- to manipulate at will. It could have been anyone who attacked the Russian systems.
Kaspersky has warned of the repercussions for releasing Stuxnet into the wild. "What goes around comes around," he said. "Everything you do will boomerang." He again stated that no one is safe now that the virus is widely available. Anyone can become infected, including Stuxnet's creators; a concern that has existed since its origin story was first reported. "There are no borders," in cyberspace, Kaspersky said. Clearly there are no borders in space, either.
Reprinted with permission from the Atlantic Wire. The original story can be found here.
This article was published in Global Security Newswire, which is produced independently by National Journal Group under contract with the Nuclear Threat Initiative. NTI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group working to reduce global threats from nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.