Millions of Computers Hit by Virus Across China
Bejing. A computer virus dubbed the world’s “first cyber superweapon” 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 that are 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 at antivirus service provider Rising International Software said.
“Once Stuxnet successfully penetrates factory computers in China, those industries may collapse, which would damage China’s national security.”
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, Xinhua state news agency reported.
The Stuxnet computer worm — a piece of malicious software, or malware, which copies itself and sends itself on to other computers in a network — was first publicly identified in June.
It was first found lurking on Siemens systems in India and Indonesia, but the heaviest infiltration appears to be in Iran, according to software security firms.
Yu Xiaoqiu, an analyst with the China Information Technology Security Evaluation Center, played down the threat.
“New viruses are common nowadays,” he said. “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 analyzing the computer worm but did not know who was behind it or its purpose.