Design and Violence


Julian Oliver, 2013

Code as quarantined infection

This small, non-interactive installation comprises a computer quarantined within a glass case that has been deliberately infected with the Stuxnet virus. Powered on, it sits in a case with one end of a red ethernet cable, connected to the gallery network, lying unplugged near the port on the PC. The cover of the glass case is screwed down and the cable cannot be accessed. Here, the visible state of disconnection evokes both a volatile, techno-political tension and an aura of anxiety. Stuxnet, one of the world’s most dangerous pieces of software, needs only a connection to the Internet to continue its destructive quest.

Stuxnet is a computer virus considered to be the world’s first weaponised piece of software. Discovered in 2010, it is designed to spy on and reprogram industrial systems. Delivered via a USB thumb drive, it disrupts specific programming instructions that typically control automated manufacturing and monitoring used in assembly lines and industrial plants. By exploiting security gaps, the virus was able to destroy 20% of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges, while relaying normal readings to the plant operators. The attack, most likely part of covert warfare against Iran’s nuclear facilities by the U.S. and Israel, was described in the journal Foreign Policy as one that “changed global military strategy in the 21st century.” Its creators still remain at large.