What is STUXNET?
To put it simply, Iran has thousands of centrifuges at work in their nuke bomb factories. Those centrifuges were designed to spin standard Uranium, called U-238, at a certain, very high rate of speed so that the heavier but much rarer isotope U-235 could be isolated. The U-235 is then brought together using a design well known since the days of the Rosenbergs to make thing to make big boom.
So how do we stop them? The Israelis wanted to bomb the factory where the centrifuges are hard at work, but that has the disadvantage of being a highly destabilizing act of war.
Turns out the German company Siemens--against what should have been its better judgment--sold these centrifuges to the Iranians. And they'e all identical.
So we had to use a different method.
So the US and Israeli hackers got together and created STUXNET: a self-propagating computer virus designed to find Siemens-brand computer-driven centrifuges and make them crash. The Jerusalem Post summarized it as follows:
The [NY] Times' report explained how Stuxnet operates. First, it spun Iranian nuclear centrifuges out of control. It would also secretly record the daily routine at the nuclear plant and play back the recording of a regular day to operators at the plant. This way, it would seem that the facility was operating correctly, while the centrifuges were being destroyed.
Upshot? Iranian nuke program put years behind schedule, the equipment destroyed, the Iranians lose zillions of dollars in equipment... and not a single life lost in the process. And no acts of war so hard to explain on the evening news.
Bravo, hackers! I mean it. Bravo!