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Essay: Stuxnet (cyber weapon) Q & As

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  • Published: 15 November 2019*
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1. What was the purpose of Stuxnet?

The purpose of Stuxnet was that it was a virus that can tell things that it was normal with no problems when it wasn’t. It exploited security gaps that system creators are unaware of. “Zero Days” was the specific target in mind. It was a weapon, first to made of entirely of code that you could get from the black-market. It was powerful enough to cause a blackout with the second largest online army. It is an open source weapon, that anyone can redesign. The purpose of Stuxnet was to destroy.

Source: Blackboard video through Vimeo: Stuxnet Anatomy of a Computer Virus.

2. What is the difference between Flame and Stuxnet?

The difference between Flame and Stuxnet is Stuxnet is an attack malware which rendered thousands of computers controlled nuclear enrichment centrifuges useless. Flame, on the other hand, is designed to collect and relay intelligence data. This is known as a massive spying device. Flame did not target the nuclear facilities, but also thousands of computers in Iranian industry, including Government ministries and the vital oil and gas facilities. Stuxnet targeted Seimens industrial controllers; Flame works on standard Windows PC operating systems. As a starter, Flame copies keyboard entries, sifts through emails & text messages, records microphone sounds and interconnects with Bluetooth devices. The data is then communicated to command & control servers, scattered around the world. On a purely legal front, whereas Stuxnet could be considered a hostile & illegal attack under international cyberspace legislation, Flame doesn’t seem to directly infringe international treaties such as The Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime. According to most observers, both Stuxnet and Flame are the products of one or more Governments.

Source: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/156777

3. What is the advantage of using cyber weapons such as Flame and Stuxnet?

The advantage of using cyber weapons as Flame and Stuxnet is that these are a way that cyber weapons can disperse quickly in just a matter of seconds. Along with being very destructive, they can be very hard to put a face behind the keyboard with who is running the operation. Stuxnet is considerable a powerful cyber weapon projected to attacks Scada systems inside Iranian nuclear plants meanwhile Flame is a sophisticated tool for cyber espionage. Neither of the attacks that’s Flame and Stuxnet set out to do did not cause any psychical harm to the systems that they were attacking, but by that advantage it helped both of them reach their goal of cyber weaponry.

Source: Video on BB on Vimeo: Stuxnet Anatomy of a Computer Virus, http://securityaffairs.co/wordpress/6373/intelligence/flame-and-stuxnet-the-union-is-strength.html

4. Describe the problem of Attribution?

Attribution is hard to put the person behind the computer because you can alter your IP address. Suggesting that it is never possible to determine the source of a cyber-attack unless analysts observe it as it is happening. Different languages can throw you off, as for example putting Chinese or Russian language in your code. With attribution, we had to take the word that it was the Russian who hacked the Hilary Clinton campaign. Hackers have a lot of technical tools at their disposal to cover their tracks. And even when analysts figure out which computer a hacker used, going from there to who used it is very difficult. You never know who is doing the hacking even if signs point to it. We don’t know what we don’t know and that is the problem with attribution.

Source: https://krebsonsecurity.com/2017/08/blowing-the-whistle-on-bad-attribution/, http://resources.infosecinstitute.com/attribution-problem-in-cyber-attacks/#gref

5. What is the difference between cyber-crime and cyber warfare?

The difference between cyber-crime and cyber warfare is cyber attackers have more advantages over agencies fighting cyber threats. Cybercrime refers to any act which is done by computer with intent to cause physical or mental harm to any individual such as stealing identities, violating privacy, stealing intellectual property rights, trade secrets, business plans of enterprises. Whereas Cyberwarfare is any act which is done with the intention of breaking down the countries social fabric, Defense System, Telecommunication Networks, Financial System etc. Motive of cyberwarfare is political in nature.

Source: http://www.insightsonindia.com/2014/12/24/9-differentiate-between-cybercrime-and-cyberwarfare-it-is-said-that-cyberattackers-have-more-advantages-over-agencies-fighting-cyberthreats-examine-these-advantages/

6. What is a nation-state?

A nation-state is a form of political organization under which a relatively homogeneous people inhabits a sovereign state and or a state containing one as opposed to several nationalities. An example of a nation state includes North and South Korea and Mongolia. Despite influence from China in its early history, Japan is considered to be the world’s largest nation-state with over 120 million Japanese, roughly 95 percent of its total population. Nation states are more responsible for preventing actions that could happen to their territory.

Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/nation-state, https://www.reference.com/government-politics/examples-nation-states-bd4ef6ae0685608e

7. What was project Olympic Games and how does the operation help with attribution?

The project Olympic Games was the code name for the Stuxnet operation for Iran. It is an unacknowledged campaign of sabotage by means of cyber disruption, directed at Iranian nuclear facilities by the United States and likely Israel. Officials said that Stuxnet was developed as part of a classified program codenamed “Olympic Games,” which was begun under President Bush. As part of that program, malware was developed to first create a blueprint of an Iranian nuclear facility at Natanz. The Israelis worked with the National Security Agency to design Stuxnet, which was introduced into the Natanz facility via USB drives by spies and unwitting employees. It helps with attribution by making it easy to help locate the person behind the attack.

Source: http://www.networkcomputing.com/government/stuxnet-launched-united-states-and-israel/1195063318, http://www.thedailybeast.com/why-was-stuxnet-attack-called-operation-olympic-games

8. What U.S. President first proposed using cyber weapons?

George W. Bush was the first United States President that prosed using cyber weapons. And which also Obama ordered to be accelerated later on. Bush pushed the proposal as a way to undermine the US and British efforts to establish international norms for cyberspace that will protect networks and critical infrastructure while supporting global efforts to protect the free flow of information. As Obama accelerated on pushing cyber weapons, he authorized a plan that would plant Russia’s cyber infrastructure with cyber weapons in defense to the Russia’s for meddling in the 2016 election. This plan is now up to the current president, President Trump to decide whether to follow through with the idea.

Source: https://www.armscontrol.org/act/2011_11/China_and_Russia_Submit_Cyber_Proposal, http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/obama-wanted-to-plant-cyber-bombs-in-russias-infrastructure-report/article/2626892

9. What U.S. government agency is currently in charge of waging cyber warfare?

U.S Cyber Command (CYBERCOM) which was created by the National Security Agency (NSA) is the United States Government agency that is currently in charge of waging cyber warfare. It unifies the direction of the cyberspace capabilities of operations, plans and coordinates and goes to actives to put forth effort. The command is charged with pulling together existing cyberspace resources, creating synergies and synchronizing war-fighting effects to defend the information security environment.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Cyber_Command, http://www.arcyber.army.mil/Pages/USCyberCommand.aspxm

10. What role does Stuxnet and Flame play in cyber-crime?

The role that Stuxnet and Flame play in cyber-crime is sponsored computer viruses, targeting high-level infrastructure and banking systems, the technology behind them will soon be used by cyber criminals to attack. Stuxnet and Flame are both well known in the cyber world. Stuxnet could spread stealthily between computers running Windows; even when not connected to the internet, they are both weaponized viruses. It is the high-end research which has gone into creating them which could prove very dangerous and that it is very easy to alter the code to make it even more destructible.

Source: http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/cyber-criminal-use-flame-stuxnet-code-375745

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