A new documentary on “Stuxnet”, the joint U.S.-Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear program, reveals it was just a small part of a much bigger cyber operation against the nation’s military and civilian infrastructure under the code name “NITRO ZEUS”
The United States hacked into critical civilian and military infrastructure in Iran to allow its operatives to disable the country with a devastating series of cyberattacks at a moment’s notice, a documentary will claim this week.
The targets of the U.S. hacking operations, covered by the code name “NITRO ZEUS,” include power plants, transport infrastructure, and air defenses, the film will state, with agents entering these protected systems nightly to make sure the attacks were still deployable.
The film, Zero Days, by Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney, which is set to premiere at the Berlin film festival on Wednesday, will claim that the U.S.-Israel “Stuxnet” worm — which destroyed around 1 in 5 of the centrifuges used in Iran’s nuclear program — was just a small part of a much larger set of offensive capabilities developed against the nation.
Citing at least five confidential U.S. military or intelligence sources with direct knowledge of the programs, the film claims:
• U.S. hackers working from the Remote Operations Center (ROC) in Fort Meade, Maryland, have penetrated huge swaths of Iran’s critical infrastructure, and were ready to launch disabling attacks alongside any military operation;
• Some within the State Department and the National Security Agency (NSA) expressed concern around the legality and ethics of some of these operations, which risked disabling civilian as well as military infrastructure;
• Israel modified the Stuxnet worm, targeted at Iranian nuclear facilities, making it far more aggressive, then unilaterally launched the new version. This was the one discovered by security researchers, who eventually traced it back to the two nations’ intelligence agencies;
• Intelligence from the UK’s GCHQ agency was used in deploying Stuxnet against Iranian facilities.
BuzzFeed News received an advance viewing of Gibney’s film, and was given access to additional reporting material and research notes used for its production. These materials have been supplemented by independent reporting, including from previously published NSA documents from the cache leaked by Edward Snowden.
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