When American and Israeli operatives launched the Stuxnet cyber attack against Iran’s nuclear programme more than a decade ago, they patted themselves on the back. Without firing a single shot or sacrificing a single life, the spies, engineers and hackers told themselves they were able to severely damage Iran’s ability to produce enriched uranium, and slow down its nuclear programme.
That conclusion proved rather misguided, as Iran quickly used its know-how to continue ramping up its nuclear programme to even greater capacity. But even back then, there were worried grumbles in the still-nascent cybersecurity industry that the worm or something like it, which had been in development for years, could be reverse-engineered or emulated and used by its targets.
In fact, they were not gloomy enough. Stuxnet heralded a new era of global cyberwarfare, and increasingly, ordinary people are being caught in the crossfire.