Because there’s so much talk around hacker activity, here’s another bit of information from the same sphere. NASA seems to be one of the most popular destinations for hacker “vacations”. Apparently the agency had to deal with 5,408 security lapses in 2010 and 2011. The most alarming breach is dated back to March 2011 when a certain laptop containing the algorithms that were used to command the International Space Station (ISS) went missing, never to be seen again.
It was obvious that NASA had to address Congress at that point. In the report, details about another Chinese hack on the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, located in Pasadena, California surfaced as well. The cases are now under investigation. Inspector General Paul Martin had to write a testimony before the House Science, Space and Technology Committee who’s in charge of running of the investigation:
“Some of these intrusions have affected thousands of NASA computers, caused significant disruption to mission operations, and resulted in the theft of export-controlled and otherwise sensitive data, with an estimated cost to NASA of more than $7 million.”
The losses also include the apparent theft of 48 mobile computing devices between April 2009 and April 2012. Due to the deprivation, sensitive information appears to have leaked, some belonging to the Personally Identifiable Information (PII). There were other laptops missing from NASA facilities and they ended up causing the loss of Social Security numbers and important info about the Constellation and Orion program.
How can NASA prevent these problems in the future? Well, until the agency implements universal data encryption strategy things might not get better. Government information data stored on mobile devices and portable computers is just not a very wise strategy. Company employees can always loose such devices or be deprived of them. But chief information officer Linda Cureton stated that the NASA IT Security program is constantly being updated in a process of transformation and maturing, so that such problems might be avoided in the future.