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Stuxnet: a New Era in Global Security – The World Reporter
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Stuxnet: a New Era in Global Security

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Stuxnet was a malware which affected an Iranian nuclear facility (along with couple of other industrial sites across the world). It was found in 2010 but it took quite a while to actually discover it. What is particular about it is the fact that it crossed the line between cyber and physical domain, showing that it was possible to use a code to damage a critical infrastructure.  Before it, a general debate in national / global security on how a critical infrastructure can be targeted and damaged through the information system has only been theoretical.  After Stuxnet it was evident that cyberspace could be exploited and used to launch cyberattacks in order to cause physical damage. So what actually happened?

On June 17, 2010 Sergey Ulazin from a small security company in Belarus received a help-request for technical support from a customer in Iran. Arbitrary BSODs (a stop error after a system crash) and computer reboots were reported. After careful examination and a regular check for system malfunction, it was discovered that a malware infection was probably involved (The Man Who Found Stuxnet – Sergey Ulasen in the Spotlight). Having a stealthy nature and strange payload, it was later named Stuxnet, according to the file-name found in the code. A computer worm infected at least 14 industrial sites in Iran along with the uranium-enrichment plant in Natanz.

It carried genuine digital certificates (they guarantee that you can trust a file) from recognized companies, and it was well-developed and direct. The malware was able to determine the target it was looking for. In case, it was not, it did nothing and moved on to another system. This “fingerprinting of the control systems” proved that it was not just an average malicious program, but a targeted malware that meant to destroy.

Although Stuxnet relied on a physical person to install it (via USB flash drive), the worm spreads on its own between computers with Windows operating system. It affects other machines, regardless of the connection to the Internet though a local computer network. It could also infect other USB flash drives and jump into other computers through it. Moreover, it proliferates very quickly.

Once the worm infects a system, it waits, checking if necessary parameters are met. As soon as they are, it activates a sequence that causes industrial process to self-destruct. Symantec, a software company that provides cyber security software and services, conducted a thorough analysis of Stuxnet and found that Iran, Indonesia and India were the most affected countries in the early days of infection. The nuclear facility at Natanz was one of the most affected.

Furthermore, the principle is that this malware identifies a target, then records the data and finally decides what normal operations are. After this, it plays pre-recorded data on the computers of the personnel so that they think that the centrifuges are running normally, when in fact they are not. In the end, it erases itself from the system so that it cannot be traced and/or found.

The International Atomic Energy Agency inspected the Natanz facility and confirmed (International Atomic Energy Agency (2010)) that the centrifuges were malfunctioning and producing less than 20% of enriched uranium. However, at that time, the reason for that was unknown. The most detailed damage assessment came later from the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington. It claimed that Stuxnet destroyed 984 centrifuges. However, Iran has not provided such a number, and the IAEA failed to give precise information on the damage.

Stuxnet crossed this line where a code infects software or digital programs, what it actually did, it affected the physical equipment. This has brought a new technological revolution. Before, viruses were used by cyber pranksters and minor rowdies to cause a system to crash on computers of innocent victims. But state-to-state attacks and a cyberwar were not discussed and were not thought of, as it was something out of science fiction scenarios. Stuxnet has changed this perception, and opened a new era in global security.

A former chief of industrial control systems cyber security research said that Stuxnet was “the first view of something … that doesn’t need outside guidance by a human – but can still take control of your infrastructure. This is the first direct example of weaponized software, highly customized and designed to find a particular target.” It is not hard to imagine that similar malicious programs can be developed in the future and used to achieve a military and/or political goal.

Many believe that the cyberattacks on Iran nuclear facility were meant to slow down Iran nuclear program. However, enrichment recovered within a year, and did not permanently damage nuclear program. Some experts also say that it had no effect on nuclear program whatsoever and the whole situation around Stuxnet was over-hyped by the media. Others are also saying that evidence on the malware has been inconclusive and Stuxnet may have, in fact, helped in speeding up Iranian nuclear program. The media reaction towards cyberattacks may have been exaggerated because of the secrecy around cyber issues but in end Stuxnet has made a good story.

As to the parties involved, the attack was not tied to a specific name and/or a country. Yet, it widely believed to be launched by U.S. and Israel. The sophistication of the program required considerable amount of resources, including extensive financial support and skilled specialists. This is why many security companies and experts agree on attributing the complex malware to one or more states. Among them is Kaspersky Lab, a multinational cyber security company, who says that the attack was launched with a specific motivation in mind. The attackers wanted to access industrial control systems which monitor and control infrastructure and processes of the facility. (Similar systems are used in power plants, communication systems, airports, and even military sites). Moreover, such an attack required significant amount of intelligence data so Kaspersky Lab is convinced that it was likely supported by a nation state.

Although the identity of the attacker is still unknown, many experts in international politics believe that the attack was clearly politically-motivated and aimed to slow down the development of Iran’s nuclear program. The United States and Israel both deny their involvement in Stuxnet, however, some leaked information (WikiLeaks, CBC interview with a former CIA director Michael Hayden etc.) suggests that the claims might have some credibility. Regardless the claims made, it is important to highlight that no country officially declared that it launched an offensive cyberattack.

All in all, Stuxnet has revolutionized the way we look at malicious digital programs and boosted a debate about cyber tools used for political purpose. After all, we are living in a highly digitalized world where we are dependent on technology. Military is no exception. Digital technologies are widely being incorporated into military planning and operations. Modern nuclear and conventional weapons systems rely and depend on information systems for launching, targeting, command and control, including technologies that govern safety and security. It is clear that future military conflicts will all include a digital aspect and cyber technologies. Stuxnet was just an early version of software that could potentially destroy an industrial site, specifically a nuclear facility. If malware actually achieved its goals, consequences would have been disastrous and could cause an international crisis.

 After all, as experts once have said, “Major concern is no longer weapons of mass destruction, but weapons of mass disruption” (Cetron and Davies, 2009).

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Specialist in global security and nuclear disarmament. Excited about international relations, curious about cognitive, psycho- & neuro-linguistics. A complete traveller.

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Employee Training and Development Becomes One of the Most Disruptive Megatrends That Is Shaping the Future of Work

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Employee training

There is no question about the effectiveness of employee training and development. It’s incredibly important to help your staff advance their skills and knowledge to help grow a business, but the impact of employee learning has often been understated and even neglected. However, companies are now suggesting that employee training and development is one of the biggest megatrends that have completely transformed the future of work. It has overhauled how businesses should be developing and engaging with employees, and it’s leading to an incredibly diverse and talented workforce that is capable of wonderful new things.

Part of the problem of employee training and development is that it’s difficult to measure its impact on the workplace. Employee performance often isn’t a quantitative measurement that is easy to read and link to their output. This is one of the reasons why the effectiveness of employee training and development has been questioned by management experts.

Thankfully, new strategies have been developed to help measure workplace learning and its impact on companies. Below, we’ve included a helpful infographic that covers some of the most important measurements, such as return on investment and how it is calculated in the context of employee learning and development. It should put the effectiveness of employee training into perspective and will help you better understand when training is needed and how development actually improves your business and its productivity.


Infographic by: Ezra Coaching
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Top 10 Simple Health Changes To Boost Your Well-Being

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It does not matter how old you are, where you live, or what your occupation is, your health should always be a top priority. However, most of us are a little bit guilty of letting our well-being slide from time to time. With that being said, read on to discover some of the simple ways you can give your health a boost today.

  1. Get rid of at least one item in your life that contains toxic chemicals – You may be shocked by just how many items in your life contain toxic chemicals. This includes everything from air fresheners to bed sheets. Get rid of one of these items and replace it with something natural instead. This is something you should make a habit to do every few months or so. You will be surprised by just how much of a difference this can make. 
  2. Deep breathe for at least five minutes – Throughout the day, you should make sure you take the opportunity to deep breathe for at least five minutes. Why? Well, there have been numerous studies that have shown that deep breathing can help to lower stress hormone levels. This means that you will feel better, get an improved night’s sleep, and you will have less anxiety too.
  3. Drink more water – You probably expected this to be on the list, but the importance of drinking more water should never be ignored. Your body needs water for almost every function. If you are dehydrated, this could be the cause of headaches, pains, aches, and a number of other symptoms.
  4. Have one veggie night per week – A lot of people eat far too much meat, red meat especially. So, why not have a veggie night once a week? Not only is this good for your health, but it will be good for your bank balance too. There are so many great recipes online that can give you ideas regarding tasty and creative dishes that do not incorporate any sort of meat or fish. Once you start off with one night per week, you may then decide that you want to up it to two nights, and so on. However, it always helps to start off small so that it is easier and more manageable, and you can then get used to it.
  5. Sign up for an online pharmacy – Nowadays, you can easily order your prescriptions and medications over the Internet via an online pharmacy. This can help you to boost your health because it ensures you never experience delays with your medication. If you are someone who often doesn’t take their recommended course of tablets because you cannot get to the doctors in time for a repeat prescription, then this is definitely a good suggestion for you. Your medication will be delivered to your door with a click of a button.
  6. Make a dedicated effort to lower your stress levels – There is no denying that we live in a very stress-filled world at the moment! The world we live in is one that has heaps of pressure, and it can be difficult to stay on top of everything and keep those stress levels low. However, it is vital that you find a way to do so. After all, if you don’t adrenal fatigue and health can start to take a tumble, which is the last thing you want. For those who are unaware, adrenal fatigue relates to a group of different symptoms that impact people who are under a lot of physical, emotional, or mental stress. From being a single parent to having a stressful job, there are a lot of different reasons why you may be struggling. Therefore, we recommend that you look for different ways to reduce those stress levels so that you can enjoy a more calming and peaceful life. Whether it is doing some breathing techniques or taking more regular breaks so you can have moments for yourself, there are a lot of different ways that you can make sure you are keeping your stress levels to a minimum. The importance of this should not be overlooked, as stress can impact our mental and physical health in so many different ways. 
  7. Do something nice for someone every day – You will be surprised by how good this makes you feel, and by how much this has a positive impact on your health. It’s all about mental well being. When you do something nice for another person, you are benefitting their health, as well as your own. First and foremost, there is no denying that it feels good to hear some nice words for someone or to get a helping hand when you need it. You feel recognised and appreciated, and this is something we all need. At the same time, doing something nice for someone else and seeing their reaction can make you feel amazing too. After all, doing something good for someone is a gift for yourself at the same time. You will find that the deed continues throughout the day, making you feel great and happy within yourself. 
  8. Incorporate some movement into your commute – If you do not have an active job, this is particularly important. Sitting at a computer all day can be bad for your health. One way to combat this is by incorporating some movement into your commute. If you can walk or bike to work, you should give this a go. If not, start parking your car further away from your place of work so that you have to walk there and back. You should also start using the stairs instead of the elevator whenever you can.
  9. Start meal planning – You will find it much easier to eat healthily if you plan your meals. At the start of every week, make a menu of what you are going to cook for dinner every evening, as well as what you are going to make for your lunches every day. Not only will this help you to eat better, but you will save money too. Make sure you incorporate some healthy snacks into your food prep for work. This will stop you from going to the vending machine whenever you are bored or your energy is zapped. The great thing about the times we live in at the moment is that you can easily get recipes and meal prep inspiration online. So, if you are struggling, simply do a little bit of digging online and we are sure that you will find a lot of different options when it comes to meal ideas and clever food prep suggestions for the week ahead. Not only is this going to help you to be more organized, but you will find that it actually saves you quite a bit of money in the process. After all, when we do not have a food plan for the week ahead, we tend to spend a lot of money on items we do not need. Food can end up going in the bin because we do not use it. This ends up in an awful lot of waste, and we should all be looking to reduce this, so meal prep is great in many ways.
  10. Keep a journal – Last but not least, keeping a journal is good for a person’s mental health. You should write down your thoughts. It doesn’t need to be a long entry; you can simply jot down a few bullet points every evening. This will help you to articulate your thoughts so that they do not wear you down. After all, it can be very difficult to sleep if you have lots on your mind. A lot of experts advise this approach for people who suffer from insomnia. One of the main reasons why a lot of people struggle to get the hours of sleep they need is because they cannot shut off when they go to sleep; their minds are still going at a million miles per hour. They are thinking about what they need to do the following day and any worries or concerns that they may have. Because of this, it very much makes sense to keep a journal so you can offload some of these thoughts and worries and you can have a much more restful night of sleep. Once you get into the habit of doing this, you will see that it actually does make a significant difference when it comes to drifting off and enjoying a good night of rest. 

So there you have it: some of the best ways to give your health a boost. The suggestions that have been provided are really simple and easy, so there is no excuse not to give yourself a bit of TLC. we are sure that you will start to notice a difference as time goes on. However, as is the case with anything, it requires patience and persistence. You cannot expect to turn your health around in one night.

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Why Buy A Business, Rather Than Start One

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There are good and bad sides to buying a business and starting your own business from scratch. For lots of people, the positives of buying an established business outweigh the positives of starting a business. Here are the reasons why buying an existing business could be the right choice.

Easier To Secure Finance

All businesses will need finance. Unless you can fund your business yourself, you’ll need to secure financing from investors. Most lenders will be more willing to lend money to an established business that they can already see is doing well, rather than risk an unknown factor. 

Income From Day One

One of the downsides of starting a business is that most start-ups will go through an early stage where they don’t make much, if any, money. For some entrepreneurs, this stage can last for several years. 

During this stage, you will need to pay out for things like your premises, as well as equipment, installation of equipment, stock, materials, fixtures and fittings, legal and professional fees, a license, uniforms, and more. 

If you don’t have finance in place or another form of income, this stage can be very tough for a new business owner. If you buy a business, you can start earning from day one, and avoid this tricky period where you might be out of pocket.  

Established Brand

When you buy a business that already exists, you are also buying into a brand that is already known, recognizable, and has a track record. You get the business complete with all the trademarks, copyrights, and websites associated with it, as well as the business locations

This means that your business will already have customers, lenders, suppliers, and other contacts that are confident in the business already. 

Instant Customer Access

An existing business also has customers already, which can help you succeed straight away. You can use a range of strategies and marketing to build on the existing customer base, but won’t have to struggle to build a customer base from scratch. 

Established Network Of Contacts

When you start a business from scratch, a lot of your time and energy has to be put into building up a network of contacts. 

All businesses need to have supplier and marketing contacts, so buying an existing business that already has those contacts in place allows you to hit the ground running.

Like money lenders, suppliers and marketing companies are more likely to offer you more favourable terms if your business has been around for a while and they know it.  

Focus On Growing The Business

When an entrepreneur starts a new business, they will have to put a lot of their energy into getting their business off the ground. This takes a lot of time and can be very tiring. 

On the other hand, when you take over a business that is already established, you’ll be freer to focus on the areas of the business that most need your attention, aiding the growth of the business as a whole. 

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