Zetter and Stuxnet: Why ICS integrators and asset owners should care

It is exciting to see Kim Zetter tell a compelling story of Stuxnet for the masses: Countdown to Zero Day.

I had the opportunity to speak with her at the RSA conference this past Spring. I had just presented some interesting (free and open source!) research on Stuxnet. You can read about my RSA presentation here. While I have yet to read Zetter’s book, she has definitely gone beyond my work in many ways.

Sanctions announcement from U.S. Embassy in Iran

To correspond with her book’s release, I’m posting some interesting, but lesser known points on Stuxnet:

  • A 2004 strategy paper from a senior fellow at The Washington Institute proposed the following U.S. strategy for countering Iran’s nuclear ambitions (his other suggestions are also shockingly accurate):

introduction of destructive viruses into Iranian computer systems controlling the production of components or the operation of facilities;


  • Symantec said there were five target companies. Zetter names four (NEDA, Behpajooh, Foolad Technic, Control Gostar Jahed). Symantec must have known their names, but has never divulged them publicly.
  • The U.S. government had been tracking one particular Iranian ICS integrator, NEDA, for literally years as NEDA allegedly obtained embargoed goods through a global procurement network
  • NEDA was public about its Stuxnet infection problem
  • The State Department sanctioned NEDA for its involvement at Natanz after Stuxnet was “over” (sanctions announced in Dec. 2012) — which to me essentially confirmed that NEDA could have been the vector for perhaps both understanding Natanz ICS, and delivering Stuxnet — and its cousin code — to their objectives.

Conclusion: Based on these revelations of how Stuxnet “got in”, if I were a control systems integrator (especially one that supported military installations or capabilities) operating in the West, I would be very concerned about my own internal systems, and the control systems I was building for my customers.