An Inspector General audit found security vulnerabilities in the networks supporting NASA's missions. The problems would have been caught if last year's recommendations had been implemented.
NASA has a number of serious computer and network security
issues that could have complicated missions and jeopardized lives, according to
the latest audit report.
In an internal
audit report, titled "Inadequate Security Practices Expose Key NASA Network to
" the Office of the Inspector General found critical
vulnerabilities on six servers connected to the Internet at the National
Aeronautics Space Agency. The vulnerabilities could have endangered Space
Shuttle, International Space Station and Hubble Telescope missions, according
to the report, released March 28.
CIO Linda Cureton claimed to have patched those specific vulnerabilities,
Inspector General Paul K. Martin noted that NASA does not have an ongoing
security-oversight program for spotting and correcting these kinds of problems
as they arise.
worrying is that NASA had agreed to implement such a program last year after an
audit criticized the agency for lacking basic security oversight, but hadn't
done so yet. Martin gave NASA till Sept. 30 to come up with a plan to do so.
deficiencies occurred because NASA had not fully assessed and mitigated risks
to the network and had not assigned responsibility for IT security oversight to
ensure the network was adequately protected," the report said.
uncovered other servers that exposed encryption keys, encrypted passwords and
user-account information, all of which would allow attackers to gain
unauthorized network access. The information could have been used to target
personnel with phishing attacks and or emails containing malware.
The audit was
focused on only mission-critical systems and did not assess the broader agency-wide
network or systems that weren't connect to the Internet.
One server was
found to be vulnerable to FTP-bounce attacks, according to the report.
Attackers exploit the FTP protocol in a man-in-the-middle-style attack to
request access to a network port. This technique can be used to port scan hosts
or access specific ports not directly accessible.
addresses these critical deficiencies and improves its IT security practices
the agency is vulnerable to computer incidents that could have a severe to
catastrophic effect on agency assets, operations and personnel," the report
promised to start a pilot program by Aug. 21 for spotting risks on the rest of
NASA's networks that don't have Internet connectivity.
An audit by
the Government Accountability Office in October was similarly critical of the
space agency's security practices. "NASA has not yet fully implemented key
activities of its information-security program to ensure that controls are
appropriately designed and operating effectively," the GAO report said.
Inspector General audit last year found NASA was not properly verifying
sanitation procedures used on hard drives before disposing of them, exposing
audit noted that NASA's servers have been broken into in the past. The report
included two serious breaches in 2009, one of which resulted in attackers
stealing 22GB of export-restricted data from a Jet Propulsion Laboratory
computer system. In the other incident, an infected computer system supporting
one of the mission networks was making more than 3,000 unauthorized connections
to various IP addresses in the United States, China, the Netherlands, Saudi
Arabia and Estonia, according to the report.