Iran confirms cyber attack on nuclear facilities

Iran has confirmed for the first time that its uranium enrichment programme was disrupted by a computer virus attack earlier this year.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that a worm had affected nuclear enrichment centrifuges at a facility in Bushehr. His comments came in the wake of a bomb attack in the capital Tehran which killed one nuclear scientist and severely injured another.

"[Iran’s enemies] succeeded in creating problems for a limited number of our centrifuges with the software they had installed in electronic parts," Ahmadinejad said. "They did a bad thing. Fortunately our experts discovered that, and today they are not able [to do that] anymore."

Iranian authorities have previously said that facilities’ non-critical IT systems had been infected by a virus, but Ahmadinejad’s admission is the first confirmation of an attack on the centrifuges themselves.

Stuxnet, the first computer virus to target criticial infrastructure, was discovered earlier this year and is widely believed to be responsible for the Iran breach. The Iranian president did not confirm this, however.

Uranium enrichment is used for both power generation and nuclear weapons. Many fear Iran that is using its nuclear facilities for the latter. Ahmadinejad said attempts to disrupt Iran’s enrichment programme are part of a "Zionist regime" in the West and Israel.

Earlier this week, whistle blower site Wikileaks published thousands of highly confidential messages that have been exchanged between US and foreign diplomats over recent years. The correspondence revealed that several of Iran’s Middle East neighbours, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, had asked the US to intervene in Iran’s uranium enrichment programme.

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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