Iran has been targeted by a second computer virus in a “cyber war” waged by its enemies, the commander of civil defense said, without specifying the target.
Gholamreza Jalali told the semi-official Mehr news agency that experts were investigating the new virus—called “Stars.”
“Fortunately, our young experts have been able to discover this virus and the Stars virus is now in the laboratory for more investigations,” Mr. Jalali was quoted as saying.
“The particular characteristics of the Stars virus have been discovered,” Mr. Jalali said. “The virus is congruous and harmonious with the (computer) system and in the initial phase it does minor damage and might be mistaken for some executive files of government organizations.”
He did not say what kind of equipment the virus was targeting or when and how it had been spotted or its intended impact.
Tehran was hit with another computer worm, Stuxnet, in 2010, reportedly designed to cripple the Islamic republic’s controversial nuclear program.
Iran has accused its arch-foes, the United States and Israel, of launching Stuxnet, which was publicly identified last June and reportedly mutated. It reportedly infected at least 30,000 computers in the following months.
Mr. Jalali warned that Stuxnet, discovered in computers at Iran’s Bushehr nuclear reactor, still posed a potential risk. Some experts described it as the world's first “guided cyber missile,” aimed at Iran's atomic program.
Iranian officials said they neutralized Stuxnet before it did the intended damage to its nuclear facilities.
The existence of Stuxnet became public knowledge around the time that Iran began loading fuel into Bushehr, its first nuclear reactor, last August. Iran said in September 2010 that staff computers at Bushehr had been hit but that the plant itself was unharmed.
Computer security firm Symantec said in November that Stuxnet might have been designed to disrupt the motors that power gas centrifuges used to enrich uranium—the most controversial work of Tehran’s nuclear program.
Bushehr is still not operational, having missed several start-up deadlines. This has prompted speculation that Stuxnet damaged the plant, something Iran denies.
Officials have said the virus could have posed a major risk had it not been discovered and dealt with before any major damage was done.
Some defense analysts say the main target was more likely to be Iran’s uranium enrichment program. Enrichment creates fuel for nuclear power plants or, if pursued to a much higher degree, can provide material for an atomic bomb.
Mr. Jalali urged the government to take action against the enemies he said were waging cyber war on Iran.
“Perhaps the Foreign Ministry had overlooked the options to legally pursue the case, and it seems our diplomatic apparatus should pay more attention to follow up the cyber wars staged against Iran,” Mr. Jalali said.
Iran’s atomic ambitions are at the heart of a conflict between Tehran and the West, which accuses the Islamic republic of seeking to develop a weapons capability under the guise of a civilian nuclear drive.
Tehran vehemently denies the charges.
(Sara Ghasemilee of Al Arabiya can be reached at: email@example.com.)