Feeds

NASA systems dangerously at risk from cyberattack

Network security is not rocket science

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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. ®

Remote control for virtualized desktops

More from The Register

next story
Webcam hacker pervs in MASS HOME INVASION
You thought you were all alone? Nope – change your password, says ICO
You really need to do some tech support for Aunty Agnes
Free anti-virus software, expires, stops updating and p0wns the world
USB coding anarchy: Consider all sticks licked
Thumb drive design ruled by almighty buck
Attack reveals 81 percent of Tor users but admins call for calm
Cisco Netflow a handy tool for cheapskate attackers
Privacy bods offer GOV SPY VICTIMS a FREE SPYWARE SNIFFER
Looks for gov malware that evades most antivirus
Patch NOW! Microsoft slings emergency bug fix at Windows admins
Vulnerability promotes lusers to domain overlords ... oops
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Simplify SSL certificate management across the enterprise
Simple steps to take control of SSL across the enterprise, and recommendations for a management platform for full visibility and single-point of control for these Certificates.
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.