A Russian Cosmonaut Accidentally Infected the Space Station with Stuxnet

Connor Simpson, Atlantic Wire
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Connor Simpson, Atlantic Wire
Nov. 11, 2013, 10:02 a.m.

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.

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