"Unraveling Stuxnet" Source: Symantec
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The Significance of Stuxnet
What makes Stuxnet particularly earth shattering is that it was designed to take a never-before-seen leap from the digital world into the physical world. Stuxnet is a computer worm designed to target industrial control systems used to monitor and run large-scale industrial facilities.
Much of the malware in play today is designed to steal information and pilfer banking accounts, both of which have indirect impacts on our real-world lives. However, Stuxnet went well beyond that. Its purpose was to reprogram industrial control systems—computer programs used to manage industrial environments such as power plants, oil refineries, and gas pipelines. Its final goal was to manipulate the physical equipment attached to specific industrial control systems so the equipment acted in a manner programmed by the attacker, contrary to its intended purpose. Such an outcome could have several underlying goals, but sabotage, destruction, and cyber warfare were the most obvious.
Stuxnet opened the door to the malware having deep political and social ramifications. There is much to be learned from the complexity of the Stuxnet threat. Indeed, Stuxnet has changed the way researchers approach malware and view the security threat landscape.