Will Stuxnet Leave as Much Collateral Damage as Any Weapon?

Flash drive(Pictured: The virus’s most likely mode of transmission.)

Reuters quotes Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s ambassador to NATO, on the Stuxnet computer virus that struck Iran’s Russian-built reactor at Bushehr.

“‘This virus, which is very toxic, very dangerous, could have very serious implications,’ he said, describing the virus’s impact as being like explosive mines.

“‘These ‘mines’ could lead to a new Chernobyl,’ he said, referring to the 1986 nuclear accident at a plant in Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union.”

Sure, Rogozin’s comments may be laughed off as hyperbole. But just how much control is party that initiates a virus attack (in this case, presumably Israel and/or the United States) able to exert over a virus, no matter how embedded it may be with commands informing it when and where to activate?

At the very least, Stuxnet sets off, or accelerates, a cyberwar “arms” race. Think the difficulty Iran has experienced subduing the virus (a computer expert advises them to throw out all Bushehr’s computers) prevents it from upping the cyberwarfare ante? Consider all the contractors — from China to Russia, even — willing to sell Iran its services and thus enable it to strike back at the West.

The perfectly clean, collateral-damage-free weapon has yet to be invented.