Arts & Events

Zero Days: Alex Gibney's Disturbing Film Reveal the Dark Forces Behind the Stuxnet Computer Worm

Reviewed by Gar Smith
Friday July 08, 2016 - 12:22:00 PM

Landmark Shattuck in Berkeley July 8

Welcome to the Brave New World of Cyber War. Our guide today is Alex Gibney, acclaimed director of Taxi to the Dark Side, We Steal Secrets, and ENRON: The Smartest Guys in the Room. We're in good hands: Gibney has been honored with Oscars, Emmys, Grammys, the Peabody, the Writers Guild of America Award and (in 2013) the International Documentary Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Several weeks ago, Gibney visited San Francisco for a Q&A following a press screening of Zero Days, his edgy new documentary about the Stuxnet computer virus that destroyed Iran's uranium centrifuges and went on to wreak cyber-havoc around the world.

Accompanying Gibney to the SF screening were Eric Chen and Liam O'Murchu, two local computer geeks from Semantec. Chen and O'Murchu are the "heroes" of the film. Their work-day job at Semantec is to protect computers from viruses and malware. To do that, they need to identify and track the nature of each example of cyber-snarkiness that comes their way. But they had never seen anything like the Sworm. (No one had.) It was these two guys who gave the worm its name.

Gibney's investigation makes a convincing case that the US (in partnership with Israel) created the worm to destroy Iran's nuclear processing ability. The suspicion is that US hoped to forestall an impending Israeli air attack that could have spread fallout over the region—and may well have triggered a major (perhaps cataclysmic) war. -more-