International Space Station Infected with Malware

Dennis Faas's picture

It's not uncommon for an employee to plug a USB stick into a computer and unwittingly install malware on a work network. Unfortunately, that appears to have happened on the International Space Station.

Eugene Kaspersky, the man behind the Kaspersky antivirus software, claims Russian astronauts brought USB sticks onto the space station. At least one of the sticks turned out to contain malware that infected computers on the station.

Exactly when this happened hasn't been revealed, though it was probably before May last year, when the station switched to using Linux-based computers.

Before that the computers ran on Windows XP, making them more vulnerable to viruses (partly because of design and partly because the Windows user base is so much larger and more appealing to virus creators).

Offline Networks Not Immune to Malware

Kaspersky said this isn't the first time the International Space Station has suffered "virus epidemics." Another virus outbreak reportedly took place on the International Space Station in 2008, again thanks to a Russian astronaut. In that case the virus was on a laptop taken on board. (Source:

Kaspersky says he highlighted the more recent case to make the point that a local computer network that isn't connected to the Internet can still be vulnerable to viruses and other types of malware.

Stuxnet Virus Acted As "Boomerang"

Some sources are reporting that the International Space Station was hit by the Stuxnet virus, which was specially crafted by U.S. and Israeli officials with the goal of attacking Iranian nuclear equipment.

However, Kaspersky did not actually say the virus introduced by the astronauts was Stuxnet. Instead, he only referred to Stuxnet in a separate story, this time about a local network in a Russian nuclear facility. (Source:

Kaspersky raised that point to highlight what he considers the dangers of using malware as a weapon. He notes that numerous U.S. businesses were impacted by Stuxnet and said that its creators "don't understand that in cyberspace, everything you do is a boomerang. It will get back to you."

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