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Iranian nuke plants rocked in midnight 'heavy metal blast'

Boffins suffer AC-DC problems as virus defences ramped up

Iran's military will establish a cyber-defence headquarters, the country's official news agency IRNA reports - just in time to sort out an alleged heavy-metal infection at its nuclear labs.

The centre - staffed by an unspecified number of personnel - "would be commissioned to design and adopt comprehensive approaches in line with cultural onslaught of the enemies", according to Brigadier Seyyed Mas’oud Jazayeri. Iran's Revolutionary Guards are already actively involved in propaganda battles against the influence of Western media in Iran, all the while spreading the Islamic Republic message abroad and limiting the usefulness of social networks used to organise protests in the country.

The new unit could be an extenuation of these activities, rather than an attempt to counter or respond to Stuxnet - the virus that sabotaged machines associated with Iran's controversial uranium enrichment programme - or Flame, the super-espionage tool.

Sanctions prevent Iran from purchasing Western antivirus technology. In response, the country is developing its own homegrown malware-catching technology, the effectiveness of which remains unclear.

The need for Iran to develop security software in the face of continuing electronic assault is all too clear. For example, Finnish software firm F-Secure reports that an email from someone within the network of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI) claimed a worm played Thunderstruck by AC/DC at high volume throughout the night. The hacker, it is alleged, used Metasploit to find vulnerable systems. Infection by the worm supposedly forced sysadmins to "shut down the automation network" at Natanz and another facility Fordo near Qom.

F-Secure is unable to confirm the report beyond being able to say that the email was sent from AEOI's network. Stealth is a primary requirement of cyber-espionage attacks, and the appearance of a worm that turns the volume up to 11 is hardly fitting with this - unless the goal of the malware is to drive scientists and other workers in Iran's nuclear programme to distraction. ®

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