500MB of data stolen from NASA mission systems by hackers using Raspberry Pi

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NASA reported that it has discovered a security breach in its mission systems that have allowed hackers to steal 500MB of data related to major mission systems. The incident was discovered in April 2018 by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. They found that an external user was compromised which helped the hackers to gain access to the JPL network. The hackers were using a Raspberry Pi computer.

NASA Inspector General Office of Audits found out the security breach in a PDF report published in June 2019. In 2011, the agency was faced by a security breach in which 87GB of data was stolen. The incident was discovered in April 2018.

According to the report, NASA JPL is known to make use of a web application called Information Technology Security Database. This is used to manage and track network applications and physical assets. The JPL network can only be accessed by IT resources that are registered in the database and approved by the lab.

NASA stated that the team receives a receipt of a new equipment notification. Line managers are assigned 30 days to allow the new property to system security plans and to use the security controls that are required.

The officials during among security issues and investigation found that:

 “system administrators did not consistently update the inventory system when they added devices to the network. Specifically, we found that 8 of 100 system administrators responsible for managing the 13 systems in our sample maintain a separate inventory spreadsheet of their systems from which they periodically update the information manually in the ITSDB. One system administrator told us he does not regularly enter new devices into the ITSDB as required because the database’s updating function sometimes does not work and he later forgets to enter the asset information.”

According to the report, Johnson Space Center’s decision was, due to fears that hackers could ‘move laterally from the gateway into their mission systems, potentially gaining access and initiating malicious signals to human space flight mission that use those systems.’

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