FBI turns up heat in hunt for Stuxnet leakers

FBI turns up heat in hunt for Stuxnet leakers

Summary: The FBI and Department of Justice are scouring email and phone records of a potentially small circle of officials that knew about Stuxnet.

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US federal investigators are applying pressure on senior government officials suspected of leaking details about the US government's role in developing the Stuxnet malware, according to a report by the Washington Post.

The FBI and US prosecutors are analysing email accounts and phone records as well as interviewing current and former officials in a search to find links to journalists, according to the report on Saturday.

The investigation is likely to centre on a small circle of senior officials, given the highly classified nature of the cyberattacks against Iran, details of which were published in a report by The New York Times in June 2012.

The report said Stuxnet was the product of a joint effort between the US government and Israel's military, codenamed 'Olympic Games'. The programme began in the Bush Administration in 2006 and was accelerated under Obama's command.

Stuxnet was designed to target a specific configuration of Siemens programmable logic controllers in use at Iran's Natanz uranium enrichment plant, the NYT said.

A round of Department of Justice investigations into "possible unauthorised" leaks that appeared in newspapers and books began shortly after the NYT report, however at the time, the department did not say which of several highly classified leaks were the subject of the investigations since that could implicitly confirm the stories.

Shortly after Olympic Games became public, Obama highlighted his office's "zero tolerance" attitude towards leaks. The Obama administration has prosecuted six people accused of leaking confidential information.

Topics: Malware, Government US, Security

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

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28 comments
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  • Transparency and doublespeak

    Very disappointing, and disconcerting. Obama's promise to improve the protection of whistle-blowers apparently doesn't extend to members of his government.
    Anamon
    • There was no whistle to blow

      Stuxnet wasn't a crime or a theft; it was a classified operation. Leaking it is a crime in the way Scooter Libby leaking a CIA agent's identity was a crime, not whistle-blowing.
      jgm@...
      • A crime? What a load of BS

        @jgm@...

        I don’t know if you’re a lackey for the Feds or just one of the masses who is incapable of independent thought and therefore regurgitate whatever the government and media tell you to, but either way the stuxnet leak/exposure is whistleblowing because it exposed a fraudulent act of government also known as a FALSE FLAG operation. A false Flag is where one country carries the flag of another (usually the enemy) and then attacks its own people/assets/sites in order to claim the enemy has done something they have not and so as to raise support from the people for a response. History is full of documented False Flag events so please don’t try the “That’s Just A Conspiracy Theory” throwaway line as the majority of the public are awake now to False Flag operations and the fact that our government has used them.

        Stuxnet is a virus developed by the Federal Government in cooperation with Israel and this article above says as much. What is not mentioned here is the fact that when stuxnet happened the Federal government used the event as justification for why bills like SOPA and other highly atrocious laws regulating the internet had to be enacted. The Feds claimed stuxnet showed how vulnerable utilities were to a hacker attack and so we all needed to give up the freedom and anonymity f the internet so that the Feds could protect us from another stuxnet like attack.

        In case you can’t yet understand that means that the Feds created the virus and then used it so they could justify the need to lockdown the net and remove anonymity from it all in the name of preventing future stuxnet like attacks. This is the digital equivalent of Operation Northwood’s which was a plan to have US assets attack US military bases and locales disguised as the enemy so as to raise support from the public to attack the enemy. While Operation Northwood never went into operation, stuxnet did and so the leaking of info about it exposing the Federal Governments involvement is by definition Whistleblowing.

        I bet when stuxnet first happened and some were calling it a false flag saying the Government had created it you were probably one of many among the masses that cried “That’s just a Conspiracy Theory”. Now that it’s been exposed for what really happened your still refusing to see reality and are once again supporting the government at the expense of your own future.
        BlueCollarCritic
  • Not a whistleblower issue

    Whistleblower protection doesn't apply to this government sanctioned operation. This is a national security issue where "government abuse" is not the first thought that should come to any US citizen's mind. The operation and its details are of a very sensitive nature that should have never been leaked for the world to know. With Iran constantly pounding the war drum with their death to Israel and death to America, the great Satan, chants, there is no operation that should be avoided in order to slow down their nuclear weapon ambitions.
    cjwarner@...
  • Stuxnet

    The people who released information regarding Stuxnet are in my opinion traitors to their country, pure and simple. The West is at war with those who wish to defeat, weaken and eventually in their religious lunacy convert the world to their assorted medieval beliefs and being able as Stuxnet did show to slow down and make much more difficult, nuclear weapons grade fissiles by the use of software from afar, killing no one, invading no country is if anything damn fine. Your President is going after not whistleblowers but traitors to the security of all of us in both the US and her allies, Those who think otherwise ought to do a little travelling and see the world out there and come to grips with the very real situation vis a vis enemies of secularism. Stuxnet was brilliant and if in fact it was developed by the US Government, good for them. Hopefully, next edition can shut down at will any enemy before they do harm to our allies and friends in future. Pres. Obama ought to with all energy find the perps and nail them hard and make an example of their deeds. this is not whistle blowing. It is no different as I see it than the atomic spies that gave nuclear secrets to Stalin. I suggest hackers better suit up and decide exactly what society they are loyal to and move there. I think that they do not understand at base what a whistleblower is meant to do..keep illegal activities from developing that risks citizens. This sirs, was a covert cyber weapon operation as I see it to weaken America's avowed enemies. Whistleblowers ought to by that definition turn in those who leaked Stuxnet's existence to the FBI instead. Those that leaked these secrets weakened the US and deserve punishment in so doing.
    nfiertel
    • Amen, brother!!

      You said that excellently!
      Joe_Wulf@...
    • Secrecy VS Idotcy

      Oh yea like anyone on the planet did not know where Stuxnet came from. And just where pray tell would it have come from? Perhaps you are so stupid that you think deniability fools anyone! DUH HUH! Oh yea no one will know where this comes from hehehe. Yea yuck yuck yuck no one will figger it out huh?
      Altotus
      • There is a difference

        between everyone thinking you a fool, and opening the mouth to remove any doubt, just as there is a difference in everyone THINKING someone did something, and someone admitting to it.
        Putertechn
    • perhaps too quick with praise

      One should spend some time considering that the majority of targets where Stuxnet family malware can be directed are found in North Amercia and Europe, not the Middle East. In shooting from the hip it sometimes helps to know where one's "foot" is.
      VytautasB@...
    • perhaps too quick with praise

      One should spend some time considering that the majority of targets where Stuxnet family malware can be directed are found in North Amercia and Europe, not the Middle East. In shooting from the hip it sometimes helps to know where one's "foot" is.
      VytautasB@...
    • Whistleblowers are now Traitors?

      @nfiertel

      "The people who released information regarding Stuxnet are in my opinion traitors to their country, pure and simple"

      Really? So what then does that make the government since it used stuxnet in a False Flag attack to justify the need to lock down the internet or are you in favor of removing anonymity from the internet and having the Government control it like the Chinese Party does for its citizens?

      Have you all just lost your minds or what? Have you really forgotten that when Stuxnet first hit the Feds claimed it was from a hacker and how it was proof that our utilities in America were open to attack and therefore we had to give up more freedom and liberty so the Feds could take over the net and keep us safe from more stuxnet like viruses? The government used stuxnet as justification for why you need the government to protect you from more instances of stuxnet. My God can you people really not see what’s going on?
      BlueCollarCritic
  • stuxnet

    Let Hillary and Obama tell the FBI "with all due respect" and see where that goes. Both of them should be taken to a deep ravine by the FBI and executed, with all due respect.
    gongdark@...
    • highly inappropriate

      @gongdark

      You comment is highly inappropriate. I'm guessing that you're yet another hate filled Republican. I hope you get a visit from the Secret Service for your sick comment.
      TroutHound
      • Open your eyes

        TroutHound, you sound like a lickspittle toadie for the current administration. Open your eyes and stop spewing nonsense.
        Tony R.
        • You're right...

          I'm *perfectly* happy with the current administration. Not sure what your condescending comment added to the conversation besides more hate.
          TroutHound
          • Look in the mirror . . .

            TroutHound, if it's anyone who is spewing hate it’s you!

            gongdark has an opinion, (an extreme one I’ll admit), but never identified a political persuasion, for all we know it could be libertarian, anarchist, or whatever. Penn Gillette certainly is no Republican but he cruelly lambasts Obama and Hillary every chance he gets. So it isn’t just Republicans who dislike or hate the current administration.

            So the way I read it, you’re the one filled with hatred . . . towards Republicans.

            As for the topic, the leakers should be prosecuted under existing law, if I released the operational secrets of my company to the press and was found out I would be prosecuted to the fullest extent the law would allow, why would bureaucrats think they are above the law?
            Muttley49
          • It's not an "opinion"...

            ...to advocate murder of elected officials. It's a threat, and it's a crime (probably under multiple statues). Please stop with the ridiculous debate tactic that never works that it's the people complaining about racism, violence etc. who are the intolerant ones. No one in the history of humanity has been persuaded by such an intellectually empty argument.
            jgm@...
          • You have a point

            OK. So I jumped to the conclusion about the author of the article being Republican. In my defense, I know a number of Republicans who spewed
            venom since Romney lost the election, so I assumed he/she was one of them.
            I do not dislike Republicans in general. I know way too many very decent Republicans for that. However, the ones on the extreme right *are* hate filled--much like the blogger that I responded to first.

            I agree that nobody should be above the law. But that's a far cry from what the offensive statement said.
            TroutHound
          • The interesting thing will be...

            will you be perfectly happy when we have 25% unemployement and so much debt becasue of the bigger Gov't and entitlement spending that the few can NO LONGER support the many and we look like Greece with riots etc. Will you be happy then? If so then have at it....but your happy is leading us on a quick road - along with a lot of things - to fiscal disaster. And Obama is at the helm - he has no more excuses.
            ScanBack
          • Your Ignorance is Showing

            And such ignorance usually masks hatred behind it. Often racist hatred for our first non-white US President.

            It is simply not even close to true that we are heading down the road to Greece's dire straits. But the claim that we are is a slogan all too popular among ignorant racists.
            mejohnsn