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The Fog of Cyberwar

Why the Threat Doesn’t Live Up to the Hype

Far from making interstate cyberwarfare more common, the ease of launching an attack actually keeps the tactic in check. Kiwamu Okabe / Flickr

In mid-2010, thousands of centrifuges, enriching uranium at Iranian nuclear research facilities, spun out of control. The instruments were mysteriously reprogrammed to operate faster than normal, pushing them to the breaking point. Iranian computer systems, however, inexplicably reported that the centrifuges were operating normally. This incident, it was later revealed, was the work of the infamous Stuxnet computer worm, presumed to be the creation of the United States and Israel, and one of the most sophisticated cyberweapons to date. The infiltration was initially thought to have set back Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program three to five years, although current estimates are in the range of two years to a few months.

Stuxnet was followed by the Flame virus: a new form of malware that infiltrated several networks in Iran and across the Middle East earlier this year. Flame copied text, recorded audio, and deleted files on the computers into

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