Virus-ladened laptops aboard ISS

August 28, 2008 // 9:25 a.m.

Tags: #gammima #international-space-station #iss #laptop #nasa #security #virus #worm

Just when you thought that computer viruses couldn't get any worse: they're now mobilising to bombard us from orbit.

According to Wired, several laptops aboard the International Space Station have been infected with a password-stealing worm – W32.Gammima.AG – intended to snaffle logins for popular multiplayer role playing games. Which, I would hope, the ISS crew aren't spending the bulk of their time playing – if only for the ping times to orbit and back.

Kelly Humphries, spokesman for NASA, says this isn't the first time such a thing has happened: “It's not a frequent occurrence,” says Humphries, “but this isn't the first time.

The good news is that the infection isn't likely to affect day-to-day life aboard the station – the laptops are used by the crew for e-mail and monitoring small-scale experiments, not running the life support systems. It's also unlikely that any networking onboard the ISS would allow laptops to come into contact with on-board systems, although Humphries rather worryingly doesn't rule such a thing out – when asked by Wired whether the laptops could share a network with the on-board control systems, he replied “I don't know and even if I did, I wouldn't be able to tell you for IT security reasons.

The lesson to be learned from this is clear: always ensure your IT security is up-to-date, especially when you're going to be approximately 343 kilometres away from the nearest technical support – vertically.

Are you surprised at the apparent lack of data security for equipment destined for the International Space Station, or do you believe NASA has really learned that little since the days of the WANK worm? Share your thoughts over in the forums.
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