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

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats


Close [ x ] More from Nextgov

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

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.


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