As the Worm Turns: Iran Sees Stars

Just as computer security experts were coming to terms with the advent of Stuxnet -- the sophisticated computer virus that targets industrial control systems, specifically the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition systems that are part of Iran's uranium enrichment infrastructure -- Iranian officials now say they've discovered a new worm targeting computer systems there.

Gholam-Reza Jalali, director of Iran's passive defense organization, told the Mehr News Agency on Monday officials had discovered the second worm, called Stars, which is "likely to be mistaken for executable files of the government," according to a report in the Tehran Times.

Coming on the heels of Stuxnet, Stars is just the latest reminder that cyberwar isn't a science-fiction fantasy. While Iran's neighbors and most Westerners probably aren't losing sleep over what may be another threat to Iran's nuclear program, you can bet a lot of computer security experts are losing sleep over the broader implications. As writer Michael Joseph Gross described Stuxnet in the April issue of Vanity Fair: "In terms of functionality, this was the largest piece of malicious software that most researchers had ever seen, and orders of magnitude more complex in structure."

At Nextgov, we recently had the opportunity to interview Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves about cybersecurity. Ilves may be the most tech-savvy head of state, leading what is probably the most wired country in the world. When we asked Ilves earlier this month about the implications of Stuxnet, given that the worm allegedly targets specific SCADA systems, he didn't mince words: "It means everything is vulnerable."

Here's an excerpt from our interview with Ilves:

We'll have much more from the interview in the coming days. In the meantime, Stars should keep us all up at night.