Cyberwarfare gets real

For nearly a decade, think tanks and government officials in Washington D.C. have wrestled with the question of what cyberwar will look like. This year we found out.

Flame malware
The Flame malware that infected computers in Iran and the Middle East was named after one of the main modules it uses to spread. Securelist

For nearly a decade, think tanks and government officials in Washington, D.C., have been wrestling with the question of what cyberwar will look like.

In 2012, we learned the answer: Stuxnet , the malware that infected Iran's Natanz plant in a bid to slow the nation's nuclear effort, which was developed by the U.S. and Israel. Security researchers had speculated those governments were the most likely Stuxnet suspects, and a New York Times report in June confirmed it.

Flame, the name given network-sniffing, audio-recording, keystroke-logging malware that infected Iranian oil ministry computers, was discovered in May. At first, it wasn't entirely clear who was responsible, but by mid-June, a Washington Post report had confirmed it was another U.S.-Israel joint cyberwar effort. A few months later, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that the age of cyberwar had begun, saying the U.S. military "has developed the capability to conduct effective operations to counter threats to our national interests in cyberspace."

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About the author

Declan McCullagh is the chief political correspondent for CNET. You can e-mail him or follow him on Twitter as declanm. Declan previously was a reporter for Time and the Washington bureau chief for Wired and wrote the Taking Liberties section and Other People's Money column for CBS News' Web site.

 

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