NASA Cyber Attacks On The Increase: Report

Dennis Faas's picture

According to NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration), in recent years, it has become an increasingly popular target for high-tech hackers.

In 2007 and 2008, China was suspected to have hacked into NASA satellites, though no formal evidence linking China to the attacks has been brought forward.

The agency says its systems were hacked approximately thirteen times in 2011 alone.

"The threat to NASA's information security is persistent and ever-changing," noted Congressman Paul Braun at a recent meeting of the House Science, Space and Technology subcommittee.

"Unless NASA is able to continuously innovate and adapt, their data systems and operations will continue to be in danger." (Source:

Nature of Attacks Varies Widely

The number of hacker infiltrations into NASA data systems continues to grow.

Since 2010, for example, there have been a variety of startling breaches of NASA's security networks.

These include such issues as interference with Earth observation satellites Terra and Landsat-7, and the cyber theft of personal records associated with 150 NASA employees.

In a separate attack, hackers gained access to the personal records of those associated with NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab, located in Pasadena, California.

Then there was the very public case of a Texas man who last year plead guilty to hacking NASA computers and then preventing the agency's workers from accessing important oceanographic information.

NASA Too Big for Security Budget?

The problem with lack of security appears to be associated with NASA's enormous organizational size.

Although the space organization is popularly linked with the space shuttle program, NASA's scope is actually much larger: online, it manages roughly 3,400 websites and maintains approximately 176,000 unique email addresses.

Protecting these assets is a huge challenge, and many observers are starting to wonder if the $58 million NASA spends annually on network security is going to be enough, moving forward.

"Some NASA systems house sensitive information which, if lost or stolen, could result in significant financial loss, adversely affect national security, or significantly impair our nation's competitive technological advantage," said Paul Martin, NASA's inspector general. (Source:

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