Most days, the news from the nuclear world looks more or less the same. Japan is still trying to pursue measures that will prevent another Fukushima. Western powers (this time the EU) and Iran are once again meeting to discuss the latter’s nuclear program. On Capitol Hill, the battle for and against nuclear weapon reductions continues to stall the implementation of the New START Treaty.
But sometimes there are a few outliers, a few stories that baffle and confound. I was sitting across from the American sous-sherpa to the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit when she got a message notifying her that an American nuclear-powered submarine had caught fire. Two months after that incident, it turns out the answer to the fire has been revised. Instead of an accident with an industrial vacuum cleaner, the culprit was actually a civilian worker with anxiety and depression who set the fire so he could leave work early. He also set another fire on the dock on which the submarine, the Miami, rests. The second fire caused no damage or injuries, but the first caused $400 million in damage.
In equally odd nuclear news, it seems that Iran’s nuclear program may have suffered another cyberattack. But this worm is a bit different from Flame and Stuxnet. According to an Iranian nuclear scientist, cyber experts believe the tool used was Metasploit, a cheap and relatively uncomplicated (compared to Stuxnet) worm used by hackers. Still, it isn’t the identity of the worm that is odd but instead its effects. Sure, the automation networks at two facilities were shut down, but there seemed to be another trick up the hacker’s sleeve. The scientist reports that during the middle of the night, music started playing randomly at several workstations, the volume at max. The song? “Thunderstruck,” by AC/DC. The scientist relayed all of this information by email to Finnish computer security research Mikko Hypponen, who works for the lab F-Secure. Hypponen says that while he did verify that the email came from the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, he hasn’t yet been able to verify if the attack did actually happen, at least according to the scientist’s descrpitions. For that, he’ll need a sample of the worm. Until then, it’s all hearsay. But intriguing hearsay, at the least.