WASHINGTON: An unencrypted laptop computer stolen from NASA last year contained command codes used to control the International Space Station (ISS), media reports said.
The PC Magazine reported that the March 2011 theft of the computer containing the ISS command algorithms was just one of "5,408 computer security incidents (in 2010 and 2011) that resulted in the installation of malicious software on or unauthorized access to (NASA) systems", the agency's Inspector General Paul Martin informed the US House of Representatives in the letter dated Wednesday.
Other laptops stolen during the period in question contained data related to Orion, the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) being built for NASA's future manned spaceflight missions. NASA reported "the loss or theft of 48 Agency mobile computing devices" between April 2009 and April 2011, reported Xinhua.
Such security incidents resulted in losses of more than $7 million. NASA believes some IT security breaches in the past two years originated from amateur hackers and cybercriminals, but that others may have been the work of foreign agents.
NASA has a $1.5 billion annual IT budget, of which approximately $58 million is spent on IT security. But the space agency is behind the curve when it comes to encrypting some of its most vulnerable IT assets, said the magazine.
Federal agencies encrypt about 54 per cent of their laptops and other mobile devices on average, but as of Februay 1, 2012, NASA had only encrypted 1 percent of its own mobile systems.