This summer, we saw the release of Zero Days, a documentary by Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney which examines the impact of cyberattacks perpetrated by countries around the world. As national governments move towards using covert attacks on other countries through malware, Gibney tries to piece together what might happen next.
To help focus the story, Gibney digs into the Stuxnet worm (W32.Stuxnet). Stuxnet is of interest because of its highly infectious nature and its target, Iran. The threat was used to take control of computers based on specific requirements in a nuclear plant in Iran. Once on the computers, Stuxnet was able to alter the speed of centrifuges in the nuclear plant and stop them from working.
Due to Stuxnet’s specificity and how complicated it was, two of Symantec's researchers, Eric Chien and Liam O'Murchu, began analyzing the worm. What they eventually discovered was that it was so well crafted that it only could have been created by a national government.
Figure. Zero Days poster (Image courtesy of Magnolia Pictures and Participant Media)
After reading their research on the threat, Gibney reached out to Chien and O'Murchu to make them a prominent part of the documentary. He was interested in them because of their expertise on Stuxnext, as well as malware and cyberattacks in general. They each provided hours of interviews that not only detailed their immense knowledge of Stuxnet, but also helped shape the direction of the film.
Their involvement culminated in a visually striking demonstration (involving a balloon, talcum powder, and a high-speed camera) of how Stuxnet affected the Iranian centrifuges.
Zero Days is currently available in the United States on iTunes, Google Play, YouTube, and Amazon. It is also available on demand with select cable providers. The documentary will also premiere on television on Showtime on November 19, 2016. It will open in select European countries in November.