recommended reading

Stolen laptop held ISS commands, NASA inspector reports

A laptop was taken from NASA in March 2011 that contained the formulas used to control the International Space Station, an internal investigation has revealed.

The space agency's inspector general, testifying before lawmakers Wednesday afternoon, said the notebook computer was not encrypted.

"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," said NASA Inspector General Paul K. Martin in his written testimony.

During 2010 and 2011, NASA reported 5,408 computer security incidents that resulted in a loss of more than $7 million, Martin said. The upshot: "significant disruption to mission operations" and "the theft of export-controlled and otherwise sensitive data," he told a House Science, Space and Technology Committee investigations panel.

The hackers ranged from people showing off their skills to possibly foreign spies. Martin's office is still probing an intrusion that went undetected for a period of time at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory that involved China-based network addresses. In that episode, the culprits gained total control over systems at the lab -- operator of the Deep Space Network. They had the ability to alter files, add user accounts and install hacking tools to steal staff credentials. The attackers could then hide their tracks by changing system logs, Martin testified.

While the number of incidents may seem jarring, he cautioned that the comparative frequency of cases at other agencies is unknown. The NASA inspector general is the only IG that regularly tallies cyber events, he said.

For years, the space agency has struggled to tighten information security -- an institutional problem that some overseers attribute to the chief information officer's lack of authority. The top IT executive supervises administrative systems but has no power over mission-critical systems supporting NASA's aeronautics, science, and space programs, including the Deep Space Network.

Threatwatch Alert

Software vulnerability

Malware Has a New Hiding Place: Subtitles

See threatwatch report


Close [ x ] More from Nextgov

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Modernizing IT for Mission Success

    Surveying Federal and Defense Leaders on Priorities and Challenges at the Tactical Edge

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • Effective Ransomware Response

    This whitepaper provides an overview and understanding of ransomware and how to successfully combat it.

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.