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Stuxnet 2 in the works, claims Iranian news agency

Is it as FARS-ical as it sounds?

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Hold the front page: Saudi Arabian and Israeli spy agencies are developing a worm more powerful than Stuxnet to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program again, after meeting in Vienna last week.

Sound a little far-fetched? Well, stranger things have happened but this particular yarn comes from Iran’s FARS news agency, thought to have strong ties to the country’s Revolutionary Guard, so a healthy dose of scepticism is probably advised.

Citing “an informed source close to the Saudi secret service”, the agency claims that the November 24 meeting was held to “increase the two sides' cooperation in intelligence and sabotage operations against Iran’s nuclear program”.

“One of the proposals raised in the meeting was the production of a malware worse than the Stuxnet to spy on and destroy the software structure of Iran’s nuclear program,” the source told FARS, adding that the $1m plan was welcomed by the Saudis.

The two sides had apparently set off on this hardline course after being frustrated by a warming of relations between the US and Iran and a deal struck between the Islamic Republic and the US, UK, Russia, China, France and Germany.

This November 24 deal, branded a “historic mistake” by Israel, will see Iran agree to halt some of its nuclear activities in return for around £4bn in sanctions relief.

The yarn certainly plays to the paranoia and FUD so often present in coverage of the Middle East, but it’s unlikely that Israel would want to anger its allies in Washington by jeopardising the recent rapprochement with Iran.

Unless, that is, the idea is to have the malware all ready to go in case there’s a sudden breakdown in talks.

A final thought: FARS lifted almost word-for-word an entire Onion story last year claiming most rural US voters would rather hang out with former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad than Barack Obama.

The agency’s editorial judgement was called into question again this year after it posted a story claiming an Iranian boffin had invented a time machine. ®

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