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Iranian nuclear facilities immune to cyberattack, country says

Technicians at Iran nuclear power plant.jpg

Iranian technicians work at the Bushehr nuclear power plant, outside the southern Iranian city of Bushehr.AP

A senior Iranian military official said Monday that Tehran's nuclear and other industrial facilities suffer periodic cyber attacks, but that the country has the technology to protect itself from the threat, an official news agency reported.

Iran considers itself to have been waging a complicated cyber war since 2010, when a virus known as Stuxnet disrupted controls of some nuclear centrifuges.

"Most enemy threats target nuclear energy sites as well as electronic trade and banking operations," said Gholam Reza Jalali, who heads an Iranian military unit in charge of combating sabotage.

All nuclear facilities in the country are immune from cyberattacks.

- Gholam Reza Jalali, Iranian military official

Jalali said that in addition to Stuxnet, Iran has discovered two espionage viruses, Stars and Doku, but that the malware did no harm to Iran's nuclear or industrial sites.

Iran says Stuxnet and other computer virus attacks are part of a concerted campaign by Israel, the U.S. and their allies to undermine its nuclear program.

The U.S. and its allies suspect Iran's nuclear program aims to develop atomic weapons. Iran says its program is meant to produce fuel for future nuclear power reactors and medical radioisotopes needed for cancer patients.

Jalali was quoted by the state news agency IRNA as saying that Iran's nuclear facilities possess the technology and skills to deal with malicious software.

"Iranian experts possess adequate knowledge to confront cyber threats. All nuclear facilities in the country are immune from cyber attacks," he said.

SUMMARY

Stuxnet is a computer worm discovered in June 2010. It spreads via Microsoft Windows, targets Siemens industrial software and equipment, and was used as a form of cyber espionage against Iran's new nuclear plants.

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Iran has acknowledged that Stuxnet affected a limited number of its centrifuges -- a key component in the production of nuclear fuel -- at its main uranium enrichment facility in the central city of Natanz. But Tehran has said its scientists discovered and neutralized the malware before it could cause serious damage.

Iranian officials in April 2011 announced the discovery of Stars, which they said embedded itself in the file systems of government institutions and had the capability to cause minor damage.

Jalili described a third virus, Doku, which he said "only spies and gathers information."

"Doku has not created any troubles for Iranian industrial organizations," he said.

He said all three attacks had been stopped and the viruses cleaned up from Iranian systems. "Many viruses are produced in the world every day, and (Iran's) cyberdefense headquarters monitors them. So far there has been no destructive impact inside the country," he said.

Jalali heads a military unit called Passive Defense that primarily deals with countering sabotage. The unit was set up on the orders of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.