Feeds

Stolen NASA laptop had Space Station control codes

And no encryption for supervillains to crack

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

A NASA laptop stolen last year had not been encrypted, despite containing codes used to control and command the International Space Station, the agency's inspector general told a US House committee.

NASA IG Paul Martin said in written testimony (PDF) to the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology that a laptop was stolen in March 2011, which "resulted in the loss of the algorithms used to command and control the ISS".

Martin also admitted that 48 different agency laptops or mobile devices had been lost or stolen between April 2009 and April 2011 (that NASA knows of). The kit contained sensitive data including third-party intellectual property and social security numbers as well as data on NASA's Constellation and Orion programmes.

The actual number of missing machines could be much higher, because the agency relied on staff to 'fess up when their notebooks were lost or stolen and admit what information was on them.

"Until NASA fully implements an agency-wide data encryption solution, sensitive data on its mobile computing and portable data storage devices will remain at high risk for loss or theft," Martin told the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight.

The committee pointed out that it was all very well for Washington to be debating government involvement in private sector cybersecurity issues, but the government might want to remember that its own cybersecurity has had "mixed success".

"Many of the technologies developed and utilised by NASA are just as useful for military purposes as they are for civil space applications.  While our nation’s defense and intelligence communities guard the ‘front door’ and prevent network intrusions that could steal or corrupt sensitive information, NASA could essentially become an unlocked ‘back door’ without persistent vigilance," warned Subcommittee chairman Paul Broun.

As well as facing the continuous disappearance of unencrypted staff laptops, NASA is also subject to increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks, Martin told the hearing.

"In 2010 and 2011, NASA reported 5,408 computer security incidents that resulted in the installation of malicious software on or unauthorised access to its systems," he said.

"These incidents spanned a wide continuum: from individuals testing their skill to break into NASA systems, to well-organised criminal enterprises hacking for profit, to intrusions that may have been sponsored by foreign intelligence services seeking to further their countries’ objectives."

He said the intrusions had disrupted mission operations, had resulted in the theft of sensitive data and had cost the agency more than $7m.

Chairman Broun said that since the inspector general's last report on IT security at NASA, the agency had taken steps to follow the IG's recommendations, but said it still needed to do more.

“Despite this progress, the threat to NASA’s information security is persistent, and ever changing. Unless NASA is able to constantly adapt – their data, systems, and operations will continue to be endangered," he said. ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
Goog says patch⁵⁰ your Chrome
64-bit browser loads cat vids FIFTEEN PERCENT faster!
Chinese hackers spied on investigators of Flight MH370 - report
Classified data on flight's disappearance pinched
NIST to sysadmins: clean up your SSH mess
Too many keys, too badly managed
Scratched PC-dispatch patch patched, hatched in batch rematch
Windows security update fixed after triggering blue screens (and screams) of death
Researchers camouflage haxxor traps with fake application traffic
Honeypots sweetened to resemble actual workloads, complete with 'secure' logins
prev story

Whitepapers

Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up distributed data
Eliminating the redundant use of bandwidth and storage capacity and application consolidation in the modern data center.
The essential guide to IT transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIOs automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.