The Worm Turns
Countdown to Zero Day:
Stuxnet and the Launch of the World's First Digital Weapon
by Kim Zetter
$25.00 List Price
ON MARCH 4, 2007, the Idaho National Laboratory conducted an unsettling experiment in digital sabotage. Federal engineers attacked an industrial electric generator—“the size of a small bus”—using a novel weapon: a twenty-one-line computer virus.
For the experiment, they set up their own five-thousand horsepower diesel machine and set it running. The virus was designed to target the relays that controlled the generator’s circuit breaker: It would turn them rapidly on and off to throw them out of sync with each other, disturbing the normal spin of the turbine. The effect was speedy and dramatic. Minutes after the virus attacked the generator, observers heard “a loud snap, like a heavy chain slapping against a metal drum.” Another forceful snap followed, and then the generator—which weighed twenty-seven tons—began shuddering and bouncing around, and “bolts and bits of rubber grommet ejected from its bowels.” After a final loud bang, the generator finally shut down completely as “a plume of angry black smoke billowed from its chambers.”
An enormous piece of real-world equipment had been destroyed, not by bombs or physical attacks, but by a piece of computer code injected from miles away.
This, argues Kim Zetter, is a hair-raising glimpse of the future. In Countdown to Zero Day (which features the edifying case study above), she writes that we’ll soon see attacks like this outside of the laboratory, because our physical world is increasingly vulnerable to digital intrusion.
Most people think of the Internet as a bunch of connected computers. But there are millions of other