Monday, January 24, 2011

Terrorism, Cyber War, or Defense?

On Sunday, January 16, 2011 the New York Times reported at length on the sabotage of equipment critical to the advancement of Iran’s nuclear program. The sabotage was executed through the placement of a “worm” called Stuxnet into the computer programs that control centrifuges to enrich uranium. The article places responsibility for the placement of the “worm” with Israel and the United States with cooperation from Germany. The Israeli and American governments neither admit nor deny that they were responsible. Most Western and Middle Eastern governments applaud the sabotage of the centrifuges.

The facts outlined above beg a question which the New York Times does not address. Was this an act of terrorism directed toward Iran? Was this a first battle in a cyber war against Iran? And, more importantly, will Iran react in-kind against a heavily computer dependent, relatively unprotected American financial, interpersonal, and communication network infrastructure? If Iran succeeded in doing the same to us would we consider it terrorism or cyber warfare?

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