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by Mary Soderstrom

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Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Cyber Spy Story: Bank Hackers and the Great Soviet Pipeline Explosion

The New York Times this morning reports that hackers, probably Iranian, have been messing with the US banking system lately.  "Security researchers say that instead of exploiting individual computers, the attackers engineered networks of computers in data centers, transforming the online equivalent of a few yapping Chihuahuas into a pack of fire-breathing Godzillas, " the report says.

It continues: "Since September, intruders have caused major disruptions to the online banking sites of Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, U.S. Bancorp, PNC, Capital One, Fifth Third Bank, BB&T and HSBC.

"A hacker group calling itself Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Cyber Fighters has claimed in online posts that it was responsible for the attacks....but American intelligence officials say the group is actually a cover for Iran. They claim Iran is waging the attacks in retaliation for Western economic sanctions and for a series of cyberattacks on its own systems.

"In the last three years, three sophisticated computer viruses — called Flame, Duqu and Stuxnet — have hit computers in Iran. The New York Times reported last year that the United States, together with Israel, was responsible for Stuxnet, the virus used to destroy centrifuges in an Iranian nuclear facility in 2010."

But cyber warfare goes back 20 years at least, when the US, with the complicity of Canada and France, leaked software to the USSR for managing their gas pipeline through Siberia.  Embedded in the programs was a Trojan virus that misread pressure guages.  The result: the largest non-nuclear  explosion in history.

The story is told in a Canadian-French documentary Bon Baiser du Canada that will be aired on Radio-Canada tomorrow.  Don't know when it will show up in English (as From Canada with Love, apparently), even though Americans helped make it.  The title is a little play on words: the spy involved in placing the faulty software was called Agent Farewell, and "bon baiser" is what you might write at the end of a postcard...


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