Fascinating Asia Times column today from David Goldman (nee Spengler) regarding the recent reports of malware disrupting Iran's nuclear program:
Amid the mass of published analysis of the Stuxnet virus, Iran's most obvious vulnerability to cyber-war has drawn little comment: much of the Islamic Republic runs on pirated software. The programmers who apparently cracked Siemens' industrial control code to plant malware in Iran's nuclear facilities needed a high degree of sophistication. Most Iranian computers, though, run on stolen software obtained from public servers sponsored by the Iranian government. It would require far less effort to bring about a virtual shutdown of computation in Iran, and the collapse of the Iranian economy. The information technology apocalypse that the West feared on Y2K (the year 2000) is a real possibility.Read the whole thing.
A country that steals its software cannot build its own, even if the sort of individual who excels at software development wanted to live in Iran. Most of those who can, leave. A 2002 study reported that four out of five Iranians who received rewards in international science competitions subsequently left Iran; too few Iranians have won international awards since then to gather comparable data. In 2006, the International Monetary Fund noted that Iran had the worst brain drain of 90 countries surveyed.
Iran has so few skilled programmers that it could be that the security services do not have the capacity to distinguish sabotage from incompetence. That may explain why Tehran blames foreign intelligence services for a recent succession of economic reverses, including the near-collapse of the local markets for gold and foreign exchange.