Researchers at Symantec Corp have uncovered a version of the Stuxnet computer virus that was used to attack Iran’s nuclear program in November 2007, two years earlier than previously thought.
Planning for the cyber weapon, the first publicly known example of a virus being used to attack industrial machinery, began at least as early as 2005, according to an 18-page report that the security software company published on Tuesday.
Stuxnet, which is widely believed to have been developed by the United States and Israel, was uncovered in 2010 after it was used to attack a uranium enrichment facility at Natanz, Iran. That facility has been the subject of intense scrutiny by the United States, Israel and allies, who charge that Iran is trying to build a nuclear bomb.
Iran said on Wednesday it had started installing a new generation of machines for enriching uranium, an announcement likely to annoy the West and complicate efforts to resolve a decade-old dispute over its nuclear program.
It came on the day the U.N. nuclear watchdog began talks in Tehran to try to advance a long-stalled investigation into suspected military dimensions of the program.
Iran had already told the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it planned to introduce new IR2-m centrifuges to its main enrichment plant near the central town of Natanz - a step that could significantly speed up its accumulation of material that the West fears could be used to develop a nuclear weapon.
Iran said on Monday it had launched a live monkey into space, seeking to show off missile systems that have alarmed the West because the technology could potentially be used to deliver a nuclear warhead.
The Defense Ministry announced the launch as world powers sought to agree a date and venue with Iran for resuming talks to resolve a standoff with the West over Tehran’s contested nuclear program before it degenerates into a new Middle East war.
Efforts to nail down a new meeting have failed repeatedly and the powers fear Iran is exploiting the diplomatic vacuum to hone the means to produce nuclear weapons.
The Islamic Republic denies seeking weapons capability and says it seeks only electricity from its uranium enrichment so it can export more of its considerable oil wealth.
In his first week as U.S. president, Barack Obama told Iran’s leaders he would extend a hand if they would “unclench their fist” and persuade the West they weren’t trying to build a nuclear bomb.
So far, they have not. In response, the United States and the European Union this year took a step they had long resisted, imposing trade sanctions to choke off Iran’s lifeblood: oil revenue.
It was financial warfare, and it carried grave risks. Until recently, Iran was the world’s fourth largest exporter of oil, providing just under three percent of internationally traded supply. The campaign to take that oil off the market risked driving up world oil prices, disrupting the international payments system and stifling a fragile global economic recovery
In interviews, senior U.S. and European officials described the intense diplomatic maneuvering they undertook to enact the sanctions without causing an oil shock.
Obama warned allies that oil sanctions were the only way to avert a new war between Israel and Iran. U.S. envoys pressed Iraqi, Libyan and, above all, Saudi officials to pump up their own crude supplies. Washington and its allies massaged skittish oil markets with carefully calibrated messages. U.S. diplomats journeyed to southern Iraq to inspect plans for new oil terminals that could help blunt the loss of Iranian shipments.
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A Reuters investigation has uncovered new evidence of how willing some foreign companies were to assist Iran’s state security network, and the regime’s keenness to access as much information as possible.
Documents seen by Reuters show that a partner of China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd offered to sell a Huawei-developed “Lawful Interception Solution” to MobinNet, Iran’s first nationwide wireless broadband provider, just as MobinNet was preparing to launch in 2010.
The system’s capabilities included “supporting the special requirements from security agencies to monitor in real time the communication traffic between subscribers,” according to a proposal by Huawei’s Chinese partner seen by Reuters.
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