Host: All this comes amid a tense nuclear standoff between Iran and Western leaders. Terrorism expert Steve Emerson joins us now. He is executive director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism which is a non-profit research group focusing on radical Islamic and extremist groups. The fascinating thing to me about this whole thing Steve is that this bug was actually able to go in and kind of disable many of Iran's centrifuges – those are the things that spin uranium to make it pure. And at the same time it was able to monitor the damage it was causing to those centrifuges.
Emerson: This was the most amazing and unprecedented virus ever conceived of precisely for what you said. One, it infected the system and it actually destroyed-- the code actually made it more destructive as it spread throughout the system. Plus it gave the ability for the Israelis and the Americans to monitor the damage and also to actually remotely control how it spread throughout the system. It was a devastating virus and it has still infected part of the Natanz plant which is why Iran had to build redundant facilities to build centrifuges that had been corrupted by the Stuxnet virus.
Host: I mean you look at all this and we have the Stuxnet virus and then we have this week there was reported the Flame virus, kind of disabling some of their oil facilities in Iran. I mean we're clearly getting better at cyber-war and could we go after their water and their electricity grid and their oil and maybe disable this country without firing a shot?
Emerson: Absolutely. This is the new war. This is the next century's war. You could disable their sewage system, you could disable their power grid, you could disable their water system. All of that would bring the country to its knees. An electrical grid for that matter. We have to also accept the fact that it can happen to us which is why we're building all these defensive systems to stop penetration of our own grids which have actually been vulnerable for the last few years. But what we're doing right now, with the Israelis and the Germans and a couple of other countries, is creating these incredibly new effective viruses that are basically unstoppable and that have a mind of their own. And they create such destructive power that they can cause a country to come to its knees without firing a shot.
Host: I mean really because the truth is we got good at this cyber war because we're trying to protect ourselves so our defensive techniques have really been used for offensive purposes.
Emerson: Exactly. The reason why we developed it was because there were attempts, and actually successful attempts, in the last decade to penetrate the Pentagon, the electrical grids, hacking into our systems. And we realized we were behind the 8-ball. And the Israelis, who are very good at [creating] computer viruses or computer systems, had actually developed a code together with Americans and Germans that was unprecedented in terms of how it could operate. It had a mind of its own basically and the reality is that this is a proven system that if continued to be employed and infect the Iranian facilities can really stop their program, not permanently but temporarily.
Host: And it's getting better. Steve Emerson our terrorism expert. Steve, thanks very much.