NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has confirmed that the Stuxnet malware used to attack Iranian nuclear facilities was created as part of a joint operation between the Israelis and the NSA's Foreign Affairs Directorate (FAD).
"The NSA and Israel cowrote it," he told Der Spiegel in an email interview conducted before he publicly outed himself as the NSA mole. Snowden is currently in Russia and a "free man" according to Vladimir Putin – as long as there are no further NSA leaks.
The Stuxnet code, which has been deployed since 2005, is thought to be the first malware aimed specifically at damaging specific physical infrastructure*, and was inserted into the computer networks of the Iranian nuclear fuel factory in Natanz shortly after it opened.
Early variants attempted to contaminate uranium supplies by interfering with the flow of gas to the fuel being processed, potentially causing explosive results in the processing factory. Later a more advanced variant attacked the centrifuges themselves, burning out motors by rapidly starting and stopping the units and contaminating fuel production, although it may actually have encouraged the Iranians.
Last year an unnamed US official said that Stuxnet was part of a program called Operation Olympic Games, started under President Bush and continued under the current administration, aimed at slowing down the Iranian nuclear effort without having to resort to risky airstrikes. General James Cartwright, a former vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is currently under investigation by the US government for allegedly leaking details of Operation Olympic Games.
Don't trust Europe or multinationals
Such international efforts are coordinated by the NSA's Foreign Affairs Directorate (FAD), Snowden said.
The FAD has full cooperation with its so-called "Five Eye partners," in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, and these agencies are even better or worse (depending on your viewpoint) at collecting data. Typically, these countries practice "full take," Snowden said, scooping every bit of data and storing it for later perusal.
"As a general rule, so long as you have any choice at all, you should never route through or peer with the UK under any circumstances," he said. "Their fibers are radioactive, and even the Queen's selfies to the pool boy get logged."
Other European countries also work closely with the NSA, he said, describing the organization as "in bed together with the Germans." Other countries don't ask where the NSA's data comes from, and the US returns that favor, to give politicians plausible deniability in the event of source disclosure, he explained.
Multinational companies also play the game, Snowden said, and cooperate with the NSA to enable the slurping of their customer's data, although a few (unnamed) firms don't submit their data to NSA inspection. "The NSA considers the identities of telecom collaborators to be the jewels in their crown of omniscience," he said
"As a general rule, US-based multinationals should not be trusted until they prove otherwise," he said. "This is sad, because they have the capability to provide the best and most trusted services in the world if they actually desire to do so."
There are unconfirmed reports that the CIA was using dodgy software as far back as the 1980s to cause problems with its then–enemy number one, the Soviet Union.
According to National Security Council staffer Thomas Reed, the CIA got wind that the Soviets were trying to steal industrial-control software for a new gas pipeline from a Canadian supplier. He claims the CIA installed a trojan into the Canadian firm's software and allowed it to be purloined by the KGB.
"The pipeline software that was to run the pumps, turbines and valves was programmed to go haywire, to reset pump speeds and valve settings to produce pressures far beyond those acceptable to the pipeline joints and welds," he said. "The result was the most monumental non-nuclear explosion and fire ever seen from space."
The report has never been officially confirmed, although the CIA has said that it introduced numerous dodgy technologies to the Soviets, including "flawed turbines [that] were installed on a gas pipeline."