Nearly two years after the Stuxnet worm was discovered destroying Iranian centrifuges, a New York Times (h/t Ars Technica) investigation has finally confirmed the worm’s origins: America and Israel. Although the revelation surprised no one, it marks the first official admission that the two countries were behind the attacks and reveals just how seriously the Administration is taking the development of new cyberweapons.As the Times report notes, Obama has drastically expanded America’s cyberweapons program since taking office. And much like the drone attacks program, the president is taking an active role in determining its use:
“Should we shut this thing down?” Mr. Obama asked, according to members of the president’s national security team who were in the room.Told it was unclear how much the Iranians knew about the code, and offered evidence that it was still causing havoc, Mr. Obama decided that the cyberattacks should proceed. In the following weeks, the Natanz plant was hit by a newer version of the computer worm, and then another after that. The last of that series of attacks, a few weeks after Stuxnet was detected around the world, temporarily took out nearly 1,000 of the 5,000 centrifuges Iran had spinning at the time to purify uranium.
Perhaps the most interesting revelation, however, is that the sabotage program, codenamed “Olympic Games” was originally developed by the Bush Administration and then greatly expanded by Obama. As the Times reports:
But by the time Mr. Bush left office, no wholesale destruction had been accomplished. Meeting with Mr. Obama in the White House days before his inauguration, Mr. Bush urged him to preserve two classified programs, Olympic Games and the drone program in Pakistan. Mr. Obama took Mr. Bush’s advice.
When running for president four years ago, Obama made his opposition to the foreign policy of the Bush Administration the centerpiece of his campaign. Promising that an Obama presidency would mark a clean break with the policies of his predecessor and restore America’s image in the eyes of the world, he rallied support from a media and public that was tired of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and Bush’s “cowboy” image in much of the world.Four years on, however, Obama’s first term has turned out rather differently. Guantánmo is still open, drone strikes have increased, and America remains in Afghanistan. Indeed, most of Obama’s largest foreign policy successes have come where he has followed and expanded on the policies of his predecessor. His track record on cyberwar fits the same pattern.Recent incidents like the the “Flame” virus make it abundantly clear that cyberweapons are becoming an increasingly vital part of America’s military arsenal. As other countries work on developing cyberweapons of their own, America will need to keep developing these attacks—and defenses against them—to retain its edge.