Security researchers have made a breakthrough in understanding Stuxnet and have nailed down exactly what devices were targeted by the malware.
Stuxnet was going after frequency converters, which can be found in industrial control systems and are used to control motors in industrial plants, Symantec researchers discovered.
They also found, with assistance from outside sources, the malware targeted specific models of these converters – one that was produced in Finland, the other which was created in Tehran.
Iran was seen as the chief target of Stuxnet. Officials in the country told the Associated Press earlier this year infections were found on worker computers at Iran’s first nuclear power plant, but attacks had been successfully fended off.
By making changes in frequencies, Stuxnet could cause significant damage at infected sites, explained Orla Cox, security operations manager at Symantec.
“What we’ve determined is that Stuxnet is targeting very, very high frequencies,” Cox said.
“It is unusual to see frequencies this high and there are very few industries that we know of that would use devices operating at these frequencies.”
Uranium enrichment is one sector that would use such high frequencies, Cox said.
Symantec has called for other experts to help with the Stuxnet research to find out what other industries may use these kinds of frequencies.
So far help has been forthcoming, as in the latest breakthrough where a Dutch expert pitched in.
Now Symantec will push forward with its investigation into Stuxnet, which has been more successful than the security giant had believed it could be.
“We’ll never get a 100 per cent story of what actually happened, but certainly we’ve been able to get a lot closer than we thought we could originally,” Cox added.