THE internet is abuzz this week with speculation about Stuxnet, a "groundbreaking" computer worm that attacks industrial-control systems. Put that way, it doesn't sound very exciting. But the possibility that it might have been aimed at one set of industrial-control systems in particular—those inside Iranian nuclear facilities—has prompted one security expert to describe Stuxnet as a "cyber-missile", designed to seek out and destroy a particular target. Its unusual sophistication, meanwhile, has prompted speculation that it is the work of a well-financed team working for a nation state, rather than a group of rogue hackers trying to steal industrial secrets or cause trouble. This, in turn, has led to suggestions that Israel, known for its high-tech prowess and (ahem) deep suspicion of Iran's nuclear programme, might be behind it. But it is difficult to say how much truth there is in this juicy theory.Apparently this bad boy is spread by USB drives, which don't raise the same security flags as the internet, and allow the worm to be spread to computers completely disconnected from the internet.
On a side note, I was not particularly suspicious of USB drives before I came here, but I'm extremely paranoid about them now. Practically every computer I run into here is infected with stuff that spreads via USB, to the point that the Northern Cape Education Department does not allow the schools to submit their results on a memory stick (asking them to burn a CD instead). From the sound of things, it looks like the US should probably start sharing my paranoia.