The Shmooze

Biblical Clue in Computer Worm?

By Michael Kaminer

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It sounds like a high-tech thriller with DaVinci Code undertones: A file name inside a lethal computer worm might reference the Biblical Queen Esther — and could finger Israel as the source.

A report in today’s New York Times says a file inside the Stuxnet worm’s computer code was named “Myrtus,” possibly a “cross-linguistic wordplay” on Esther’s original Hebrew name of Hadassah. It’s one of what the New York Times calls “several murky clues that have emerged as computer experts try to trace the origin and purpose of the rogue Stuxnet program, which seeks out a specific kind of command module for industrial equipment.” Its exact target: Iran, where 30,000 computers have been infected, according to the Guardian. The worm “appears to have used contaminated hardware in an attempt to cripple Iran’s nuclear program,” the Guardian said, and “was a sophisticated attack almost certainly orchestrated by a state. It also appears that intelligence operatives were used to deliver the worm to its goal.”

The Guardian article continued: “Yesterday, Iran confirmed that the worm had been found on laptops at the Bushehr nuclear reactor, which had been due to go online next month but has now been delayed. It denied the worm had infected the main operating system or caused the delay.”

“There are many reasons to suspect Israel’s involvement in Stuxnet,” the New York Times reported. “Intelligence is the single largest section of its military and the unit devoted to signal, electronic and computer network intelligence, known as Unit 8200, is its largest group.”

Yossi Melman, who covers intelligence for Haaretz, told the Times he suspects Israel, but Shai Blitzblau, the technical director and head of the computer warfare laboratory at Maglan, an Israeli information-security company, told the Times he was “convinced that Israel had nothing to do with Stuxnet.”


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