Iran nuclear scientists reportedly assaulted with AC/DC

The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran has been attacked by malware once again.

In a letter made public on the company's website, an unknown Iranian scientist from the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) contacted Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer of Finnish security company F-secure, with an unusual complaint:

I am writing you to inform you that our nuclear program has once again been compromised and attacked by a new worm with exploits which have shut down our automation network at Natanz and another facility Fordo near Qom.

According to the email our cyber experts sent to our teams, they believe a hacker tool Metasploit was used. The hackers had access to our VPN. The automation network and Siemens hardware were attacked and shut down. I only know very little about these cyber issues as I am scientist not a computer expert.

There was also some music playing randomly on several of the workstations during the middle of the night with the volume maxed out. I believe it was playing 'Thunderstruck' by AC/DC.

Though Hypponen emphasized that he could not verify the attacks upon the Natanz Uraniam enrichment facility in central Iran and Qom, a research facility in an undisclosed section of southwest Tehran, he confirmed that the message was sent from the AEIO.

This sort of thing isn't new. Music was central to 1989's Operation Just Cause, in which U.S. soldiers attempted to coerce Panamanian President Manuel Noriega from his refuge in the Vatican embassy by blaring loud music at the building. In documents acquired by the National Security Archives,  U.S. SOUTHCOM admitted U.S. military DJs took requests, blaring a playlist that ranged from Paul Simon's 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover, Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run and, an apparent favorite, AC/DC's You Shook Me All Night Long.

More recently, U.S. Psychological Operations Company (PsyOps) admitted to the use of heavy metal in Iraq as a mechanism to break uncooperative prisoners' resistance. Similar use was reported by the International Committee of the Red Cross as part of the "cruel, humane and degrading" treatment of Guantanamo inmates. Though the use of heavy metal as a interrogation technique incited some record companies to warn that the United States may owe royalty fees, military officials were unrepentant. As one officer told Newsweek, "Trust me, it works."

Though hackers have been known for their peculiar brand of humor -- see Stuxnet's hidden biblical references -- the use of music in cyber warfare is certainly a new development. Start planning your requests.

Sara Johannessen/AFP/Getty Images


Judge rules that WikiLeaks cables are still classified

A U.S. federal judge yesterday ruled against the American Civil Liberties Union in a suit to obtain the unredacted versions of 23 embassy cables related to Guantanamo, rendition and the drone program. The odd thing is, those cables are already available to the ACLU thanks to WikiLeaks. Cyrus Farviar writes

Not only have these 23 cables in question been available on WikiLeaks for quite some time, the ACLU had previously created an online tool allowing anyone to compare the redacted versions of five excerpts with the full versions as published on WikiLeaks.

The Monday decision finds that because the State Department (and therefore, the executive branch) classifies these sections as secret, and that those sections in question have not been “officially acknowledged,” (as defined in a 1990 appeals court decision), they remain secret.

“No matter how extensive, the WikiLeaks disclosure is no substitute for an official acknowledgement and the ACLU has not shown that the Executive has officially acknowledged that the specific information at issue was a part of the WikiLeaks disclosure,” Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly wrote.

I understand the idea that officially declassifying these cables could be taken as a tacit acceptance of WikiLeaks' tactics. But continuing to pretend that these documents are still secret is starting to look a bit ridiculous.