The Prelude to Stuxnet

Robert Amsterdam pic of Siberian pipelines
Pic via The Oil Drum, I think
While reading up on the Stuxnet worm — a USB spread malicious code that targets Siemens industrial control systems computers and has apparently mangled almost a third of the uranium centrifuges in Nantaz — I came across references to a pipeline explosion caused by a trojan horse. A three kiloton explosion..

The story was covered by William Safire in 2004. Throughout the 70s, the Soviets were back-engineering American computer hardware. They earned huge amounts of foreign currency when oil prices soared and the West was eager to buy oil and gas from them. They spent much of the money on a military technology buying spree, purchasing the latest Western technology through a vast network of shadowy third-party purchasing agents and intermediaries.

Through a French-run KGB colonel, CIA and NATO began distributing ” deliberately flawed designs for stealth technology and space defense… The technology topping the Soviets’ wish list was for computer control systems to automate the operation of the new trans-Siberian gas pipeline. When we turned down their overt purchase order, the KGB sent a covert agent into a Canadian company to steal the software; tipped off by Farewell, we added what geeks call a Trojan horse to the pirated product.”

“The pipeline software that was to run the pumps, turbines and valves was programmed to go haywire,” writes Gus Reed, “to reset pump speeds and valve settings to produce pressures far beyond those acceptable to the pipeline joints and welds. The result was the most monumental non-nuclear explosion and fire ever seen from space.” (NYTimes 2/4/2004)

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