The Attractive Worm
Monday, November 29, 2010 at 08:46AM

It’s Label Monday again! Using figures and tropes, Figaro attempts to label events and issues. Today’s mission: name the brilliant cyberattack against Iran’s nuclear-weapons facilities. Positively Hollywood in its story line, it involves top government leaders, nefarious Iranians, and Russian consultants (one of them an Angelina Jolie lookalike named Natasha, no doubt) bearing worm-infected memory sticks. So if you were to make a movie, what would you title it? Here’s Figaro’s nominee.

 This week’s label: Possession

 Why “Possession?” Because the Stuxnet worm Satanically possesses particular industrial centrifuges—specifically those at two nuclear facilities in Iran—and causes them to spin wildly out of control. Possession is a powerful metaphor. What’s more, the label implies a group of geeks who gain control—possession—of the means of mass destruction. And so “Possession” also qualifies as a metonymy, a trope that, among other things, swaps an action (possession) for the thing that acts (the worm, or the plucky geeks who developed it).

It’s clear from the recent wikileaks that leaders around the world have been, well, possessed by the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran. An Israeli military strike seemed inevitable. Then along came Stuxnet early this summer, possibly developed by Israel’s secretive cyber corps Unit 8200. Picture the scene.

Geek: Sir, if you’ll just hold off the attack a few more months, my hackers can dismantle those centrifuges without a single missile being fired.

Commander in Chief: What do you need from me?

Geek: Someone to infiltrate the facility and plant the worm.

Commander in Chief: Natasha.

Geek: Sir?

Commander in Chief: Her name’s Natasha.

Article originally appeared on Figures of Speech (
See website for complete article licensing information.