From sci-fi to Stuxnet: exploding gas pipelines and the Farewell Dossier

When Casey told President Reagan of the undertaking, the latter was enthusiastic. In time, the project proved to be a model of interagency cooperation, with the FBI handling domestic requirements and CIA responsible for overseas operations. The program had great success, and it was never detected.In researching today’s SC Magazine Cybercrime Corner article “From sci-fi to Stuxnet: Exploding gas pipelines and the Farewell Dossier”, I came across this ‘Damn Interesting’ article which showcases the successful cyberwarfare compromise of a SCADA / pipeline control system nearly thirty years ago, an event which I had heard stories about in Navy circles but until today had never seen detailed even after the declassification in 1996:

  • Disguised as an automated system test, the software instructed a series of valves, turbines, and pumps to increase the pipeline’s pressure far beyond its capacity, putting considerable strain on the line’s many joints and welds over a period of time. One day [in 1982], somewhere in the cold loneliness of Siberia, the overexerted pipeline finally succumbed to the pressure.

    As satellites for the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) watched from orbit, a massive explosion rocked the Siberian wilderness. The fireball had an estimated destructive power of three kilotons, or about 1/4 the strength of the Hiroshima bomb.

    It would be fourteen years before the real cause of the event would be revealed. When investigators in the USSR eventually discovered that the event had been triggered by sabotaged software, the KGB leadership were furious, but unable to lodge any official protest regarding the deliberate defect since that would also expose their own large-scale espionage efforts.

    Upon realizing that the CIA was serving imitation intelligence, the other recent problems with US-derived designs were no longer so mysterious. Given the dramatic results of the pipeline bug, all of the burgled Western technology was immediately cast under suspicion, a situation which mired the Soviet’s borrowed progress in a pit of uncertainty and suspicion.

Related Articles:

  1. From sci-fi to Stuxnet: Exploding gas pipelines and the Farewell Dossier – SC Magazine
  2. CIA resource: The Farewell Dossier | Duping the Soviets – CIA.gov
  3. Wikipedia Resource: The Farewell Dossier: “Intelligence shortcomings, as we see, have a thousand fathers; secret intelligence triumphs are orphans. Here is the unremarked story of “the Farewell dossier”: how a CIA campaign of computer sabotage resulting in a huge explosion in Siberia — all engineered by a mild-mannered economist named Gus Weiss — helped us win the Cold War.”
  4. Damn Interesting • The Farewell Dossier
  5. The Original Logic Bomb – SyFy’s Sixth Worst Cyberattack

You may compare this with Stuxnet or say that it is completely unrelated. I’d love to hear your feedback.

Author ESET Research, ESET

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