On Thursday, NASA’s inspector general released a report revealing that between 2010 and 2011, the agency had more than 5,000 computer security incidents. An ongoing investigation has revealed that one such attack was on its Jet Propulsion Lab by Chinese hackers, according to Fox News.
Fox News has more on the lab attack, which it describes as a “jewel in NASA’s space technology crown:”
That report revealed scant details of an ongoing investigation into the incident against the Pasadena, Calif., lab, noting only that cyberattacks against the JPL involved Chinese-based Internet Protocol (IP) addresses.
Paul K. Martin, NASA’s inspector general, put his conclusions bluntly.
“The attackers had full functional control over these networks,” he wrote.
Martin has said that the cybersecurity incidents the agency has experiences from “foreign intelligence services seeking to further their countries’ objectives.” We have reported in the past that China has increased its space endeavors in the last decade, launching its Shenzhou 8 unmanned spacecraft in Nov. 2011. This spacecraft was to be the country’s first docking mission for creating its own space station.
NASA’s JPL develops robotic planetary spacecraft with some of its most recent missions including further development of the Mars Science Laboratory and sending the GRAIL spacecraft to study the moon. Here is a bit more on the missions it launched just last year:
Last year JPL launched four new missions – our new flagship rover mission, Mars Science Laboratory, as well as the Jupiter-bound Juno, the GRAIL twin spacecraft to Earth’s moon, and Aquarius to make global maps of salt across the surface of Earth’s ocean. The GRAIL spacecraft arrived at the moon just as 2012 was beginning, while Mars Science Laboratory will deliver its Curiosity rover to the Red Planet in August. The Dawn spacecraft, which since last summer has orbited the asteroid belt’s second largest object, the protoplanet Vesta, will depart in July on a two and a half year journey to the dwarf planet Ceres.
Fox reports that NASA would not comment on the hack of JPL because it is still an ongoing investigation, but it does note that NASA stated there was no threat to the laptop being stolen with command codes to the International Space Station while did not specifically state that no threat was made on JPL.
A NASA spokesperson has said that the agency has made improvements to its cybersecurity, and continues to do so, according to Fox. Still, the Office of Management and Budget states only 1 percent of NASA’s portable devices and laptops have been encrypted this year.