Feeds

NASA systems dangerously at risk from cyberattack

Network security is not rocket science

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

An official audit of NASA's network has concluded that the space agency faces a high risk of cyberattack.

Experts from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) paint a grim picture of the state of the space agency's server infrastructure, warning that vulnerabilities in its systems leave it open to defacement, denial of service or information-stealing attacks.

In particular, six unnamed IT systems were found to be at risk to attacks that might allow hackers to seize remote control of critical systems over the net – which included systems that control spacecraft – as a result of unpatched software vulnerabilities. The OIG's report (24-page PDF/703 KB, extract of conclusions below) also warns that sensitive account information is poorly protected and wide open to extraction for any attackers who make it past NASA's perimeter defences.

We found that computer servers on NASA's Agency-wide mission network had high-risk vulnerabilities that were exploitable from the internet. Specifically, six computer servers associated with IT assets that control spacecraft and contain critical data had vulnerabilities that would allow a remote attacker to take control of or render them unavailable.

Moreover, once inside the Agency-wide mission network, the attacker could use the compromised computers to exploit other weaknesses we identified, a situation that could severely degrade or cripple NASA's operations. We also found network servers that revealed encryption keys, encrypted passwords, and user account information to potential attackers. These data are sensitive and provide attackers additional ways to gain unauthorized access to NASA networks.

Auditors criticised NASA for failing to apply an agency-wide computer security program they recommended following the previous review last May.

As Nature notes, the security vulnerabilities are a concern particularly because NASA has been the frequent victim of cyberattacks in the past. For example, hackers extracted 22 GB of data from the servers of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California back in 2009.

The space agency said it had already fixed the vulnerabilities identified by the OIG's auditors. NASA managers promised to apply a consistent security policy across the agency. ®

New hybrid storage solutions

More from The Register

next story
Google recommends pronounceable passwords
Super Chrome goes into battle with Mr Mxyzptlk
Infosec geniuses hack a Canon PRINTER and install DOOM
Internet of Stuff securo-cockups strike yet again
Reddit wipes clean leaked celeb nudie pics, tells users to zip it
Now we've had all THAT TRAFFIC, we 'deplore' this theft
Apple Pay is a tidy payday for Apple with 0.15% cut, sources say
Cupertino slurps 15 cents from every $100 purchase
YouTube, Amazon and Yahoo! caught in malvertising mess
Cisco says 'Kyle and Stan' attack is spreading through compromised ad networks
TorrentLocker unpicked: Crypto coding shocker defeats extortionists
Lousy XOR opens door into which victims can shove a foot
Greater dev access to iOS 8 will put us AT RISK from HACKERS
Knocking holes in Apple's walled garden could backfire, says securo-chap
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.