A mysterious, musical computer virus has left Iranian nuclear scientists positively thunderstruck.
Poor Iran. As if Stuxnet and Flame weren't enough, now a new virus appears to be targeting not the hardware but the scientists themselves. F-Secure Chief Research Officer Mikko Hypponen says he's received emails from a scientist at the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran describing a new kind of cyber-attack on its computers, and it's a doozy.
"I am writing you to inform you that our nuclear program has once again been compromised and attacked by a new worm with exploits which have shut down our automation network at Natanz and another facility Fordo near Qom," one email says. "There was also some music playing randomly on several of the workstations during the middle of the night with the volume maxed out. I believe it was playing 'Thunderstruck' by AC/DC."
Hypponen wrote on this blog that while he can't confirm the details, he can confirm that the person he was communicating with was sending and receiving emails from within the AEOI.
The whole thing sounds more like a prank than the concerted cyber-warfare attack represented by Stuxnet, but random explosions of full-volume "Thunderstruck," especially in a country that doesn't have a strong tradition of Aussie bro-rock, could certainly be disconcerting for scientists stuck in the room where it's happening. And loud music has in fact been used as a psychological weapon in the past, such as when the U.S. military used it to help force the surrender of Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega in 1989, or when I tried to piss off my dad that one time.
From a technological perspective, it's amazing how easily the foundations of even a well-protected foreign agency can be shaken with just a simple flick of a switch in an entirely different part of the world. Still, it's hard not to feel some degree of sympathy for those Iranian scientists, being shaken all night long like that; a stiff upper lip will only keep you going for so long, and sooner or later somebody's bound to have a nervous shakedown. Nobody has claimed responsibility for the dirty deed at this point, but the number of possibilities is relatively small. After all, it would take some very big balls to pull something like this off.