Report: Obama ordered Stuxnet attacks on Iran

The worm, developed by U.S. and Israeli agencies, targeted Iran's nuclear program, the New York Times says

U.S. President Barack Obama ordered the Stuxnet cyberattacks on Iran in an effort to slow the country's development of a nuclear program, according to a report in The New York Times.

The Times, quoting anonymous sources, reported that, in the early days of his presidency, Obama accelerated attacks related to an effort begun by the George W. Bush administration. The Stuxnet worm, long rumored to have been developed by Israel or the U.S., escaped from Iranian computers in mid-2010 and compromised computers across the Internet.

Obama considered shutting down the cyberattacks after Stuxnet began compromising other computers, but decided to continue with the program, according to the Times. The Stuxnet worm came from a joint U.S. and Israeli effort to target the Iranian nuclear program, the Times said. The newspaper interviewed U.S., Israeli and European officials currently and formerly involved with the cyberattack program, it said.

Stuxnet was discovered in July 2010, when a Belarus-based security company detected the worm on computers belonging to an Iranian client. The consensus of security experts at the time was that Stuxnet was built by a sophisticated attacker, likely a nation state, and was designed to destroy something big, such as an Iran's Bushehr nuclear reactor. Security experts examining the worm when it was first discovered said that it placed its own code into systems installed with Siemens software, after detecting a certain type of Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) device.

Two White House spokesmen were not immediately available for comment on the Times story.

Obama raised concerns that the Stuxnet program, code-named Olympic Games, would embolden other countries, terrorists and hackers to use similar attacks, but concluded that the U.S. had no other options available against Iran, the Times story said.

The goal of the attacks was to gain access to the industrial computer controls in Iran's Natanz nuclear plant, the story said. The U.S. National Security Agency and a secret Israeli cyberunit developed the Stuxnet worm, the story said.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Grant Gross

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place