NASA says some of the agency's servers were breached, and staff members' social security numbers, along with other PPI, may have been stolen
NASA, or National Aeronautics and Space Administration agency, has announced that personal data of current or former employees, may have been illegally accessed due to internal server compromise.
On Tuesday, NASA published an internal status report that detailed the incident. According to the memo, the company's cybersecurity personnel noticed the compromise of the internal servers on October 23rd, 2018. The more thorough investigation showed that two servers were affected by the breach, and that kept social security numbers, along with other personally identifiable information.
While the hack was spotted back in October, it was announced only in mid-December, so it took NASA almost two months to disclose the breach. Nevertheless, it is common for the investigators to conceal the information regarding such incidents, while the investigation has just begun.
NASA data breach is still under the investigation
The message revealed that the incident is still under a thorough investigation which employs not only NASA but also federal forensic investigators. The servers are currently secured, and the company is trying to determine the scope of the breach. Nevertheless, NASA stated that “it will take time.”
As of now, the agency does not know how many employees were affected by the breach; however, it detailed that those working for NASA between 2006 and 2018 may be affected:
Those NASA Civil Service employees who were on-boarded, separated from the agency, and/or transferred between Centers, from July 2006 to October 2018, may have been affected
The company said that the message was sent to every single employee, regardless if he or she has been affected by the breach. As soon as more details are revealed and a precise number of those affected is known, NASA promised more specific information, also offering identity protection services as required.
While personal data disclosure is a serious problem (considering that NASA currently employs 17,411 people), the company reported that no missions were affected by the incident.
Industry giants can be just as vulnerable as small organisations
NASA was created back in 1958 and is considered to be one of the most influential organizations globally. After all, it has a moon landing, Mars missions, and other impression achievements under its belt. However, this data breach proves, once again, that even the most powerful bodies are not invulnerable to hackers' deeds.
It is not the first time the space industry leader was involved in a data leak incident. Back in 2011, a total of 13 separate security incidents affected NASA, and hackers managed to gain full control of Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) systems. In 2016, malicious actors managed to take over and destroy a drone that was worth $222 million, as well as view videos taken by it.
According to Statement that was published by U.S. House of Representatives back in 2012, cybersecurity incidents pose a severe threat to national safety:
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. Even more troubling, skilled and committed cyber attackers could choose to cause significant disruption to NASA operations, as IT networks are central to all aspects of NASA’s operations.