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World's first 'cyber superweapon' attacks China

WikiLeaks founder blasts Pentagon amid Afghan files row
London (AFP) Sept 30, 2010 - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said Thursday the Pentagon was intent on destroying the whistleblower website and denied it had endangered innocent people. The 39-year-old said WikiLeaks faced a fierce onslaught from the Pentagon after releasing tens of thousands of classified US military documents on the Afghan war. "I need to express the seriousness of the attack against this media organisation," he told an audience in London. "The Pentagon has demanded... that we destroy, totally destroy, our previous publications, including that Afghan publication.

"The Pentagon is trying to get up an espionage case and destroy our organisation," the Australian former computer hacker added: His warning was the latest salvo in a war of words between the website and US military chiefs since WikiLeaks published nearly 77,000 classified US military documents on the war in Afghanistan on July 23. Assange had previously said a further 15,000 from the massive cache are being prepared for release. The released files included allegations that Pakistani spies met with the Taliban and that deaths of innocent civilians at the hands of international forces were covered up. But the documents also included names of some Afghan informants, prompting claims that the leaks have endangered lives. Assange insisted Thursday the site aimed to protect people.

"We do not have a goal of innocent people being harmed. We have precisely the opposite goal," he said at London's City University. Asked about the approach taken to vetting the documents, he refused to go into details but said: "We took a harm limitation approach... we think that that effort was pretty good." Assange denied reports that WikiLeaks's representative in Germany was suspended over criticisms of the way the website was run. Daniel Schmitt told German news magazine Der Spiegel that Assange had unilaterally taken the decision to suspend him and had "reacted to the smallest criticism by accusing me of being disobedient and disloyal towards the project." But Assange dismissed this as "absolute lies". "He was suspended a month ago for other reasons," said the WikiLeaks founder, without giving details. Assange has recently been based in Sweden but his time there has been clouded by rape allegations against him. He has said the allegations are part of a "smear campaign" aimed at discrediting his website.
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Sept 30, 2010
A computer virus dubbed the world's "first cyber superweapon" by experts and which may have been designed to attack Iran's nuclear facilities has found a new target -- China.

The Stuxnet computer worm has wreaked havoc in China, infecting millions of computers around the country, state media reported this week.

Stuxnet is feared by experts around the globe as it can break into computers that control machinery at the heart of industry, allowing an attacker to assume control of critical systems like pumps, motors, alarms and valves.

It could, technically, make factory boilers explode, destroy gas pipelines or even cause a nuclear plant to malfunction.

The virus targets control systems made by German industrial giant Siemens commonly used to manage water supplies, oil rigs, power plants and other industrial facilities.

"This malware is specially designed to sabotage plants and damage industrial systems, instead of stealing personal data," an engineer surnamed Wang at antivirus service provider Rising International Software told the Global Times.

"Once Stuxnet successfully penetrates factory computers in China, those industries may collapse, which would damage China's national security," he added.

Another unnamed expert at Rising International said the attacks had so far infected more than six million individual accounts and nearly 1,000 corporate accounts around the country, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The Stuxnet computer worm -- a piece of malicious software (malware) which copies itself and sends itself on to other computers in a network -- was first publicly identified in June.

It was found lurking on Siemens systems in India, Indonesia, Pakistan and elsewhere, but the heaviest infiltration appears to be in Iran, according to software security researchers.

A Beijing-based spokesman for Siemens declined to comment when contacted by AFP on Thursday.

Yu Xiaoqiu, an analyst with the China Information Technology Security Evaluation Centre, downplayed the malware threat.

"So far we don't see any severe damage done by the virus," Yu was quoted by the Global Times as saying.

"New viruses are common nowadays. Both personal Internet surfers and Chinese pillar companies don't need to worry about it at all. They should be alert but not too afraid of it."

A top US cybersecurity official said last week that the country was analysing the computer worm but did not know who was behind it or its purpose.

"One of our hardest jobs is attribution and intent," Sean McGurk, director of the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC), told reporters in Washington.

"It's very difficult to say 'This is what it was targeted to do,'" he said of Stuxnet, which some computer security experts have said may be intended to sabotage a nuclear facility in Iran.

A cyber superweapon is a term used by experts to describe a piece of malware designed specifically to hit computer networks that run industrial plants.

"The Stuxnet worm is a wake-up call to governments around the world," Derek Reveron, a cyber expert at the US Naval War School, was quoted as saying Thursday by the South China Morning Post.

"It is the first known worm to target industrial control systems."

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Cyber storm exercise tests readiness
Washington (UPI) Sep 29, 2010
The third consecutive biannual exercise testing government and industry readiness to counter threats to cybersecurity comes at a time when resources are stretched but the threat is nowhere near being sized up or disappearing from the scene. This week's Cyber Storm III exercise, backed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and involving industry leaders, federal and state agencies ... read more

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