Through some of the 5,408 computer security incidents that NASA reported in 2010 and 2011, thieves and hackers gained access to information used to control objects flying in space, NASA Inspector General Paul K. Martin told a House Science, Space and Technology Committee investigations panel today, PC Magazine reported.
"The March 2011 theft of an unencrypted NASA notebook computer resulted in the loss of the algorithms used to command and control the International Space Station," Martin said.
In another case, Martin said, hackers with China-based network addresses broke into the computer systems at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which operates the global Deep Space Network, a worldwide antenna network that guides unmanned spacecraft traveling to other planets. In an intrusion that was not detected for some time, the hackers had the ability to alter files, add user accounts and steal staff credentials, NextGov.com reported.
According to Martin, NASA reported the loss or theft of 48 laptops or other mobile computing devices between April 2009 and April 2011, PC Magazine reported. He said the space agency was also the target of 47 cyberattacks, 13 of which successfully compromised NASA computers, Security News reported.
While federal agencies encrypt about 54 percent of their laptops and other mobile devices on average, Martin said NASA had only encrypted 1 percent of its own mobile devices as of last month, PC Magazine reported.
One issue, Martin said: NASA’s chief information officer "has limited ability" to require IT security programs be implemented across the agency.
"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 said, according to Security News.
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