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Thursday, 28 August 2008 18:09

Worms in space: NASA confirms International Space Station infected

NASA has confirmed that a laptop aboard the International Space Station has been infected with  the W32.Gammima.AG worm, and admits this isn't the first time it has happened...

Well, what do you know, it seems that the latest International Space Station mission has an uninvited guest in the shape of a worm that managed to stowaway for the ride.

NASA spokesperson Kelly Humphries has confirmed that a worm was discovered aboard during a routine antivirus scan on July 25th. This has since been identified as being the W32.Gammima.AG worm.

NASA first reported back on August 11th that ISS commander Sergey Volkov was working on a Russian RSS-2 laptop and put his digital photo storage cards though "a virus check with the Norton AntiVirus application."

It wasn't until more than a week, and another Norton scan, later that it was revealed that all the laptops on board the ISS were now having Norton loaded up and scans executed.

It's slightly worrying to learn that even an organisation as technologically advanced as NASA can run into problems with what turns out to be a Chinese online game data stealing worm that is more than a year old.

I am not sure what the hackers would have made of it had the worm managed to install its rootkit and transmit data back to their remote servers as intended. Of course, playing online games in space is perhaps not high on an Astronaut ToDo list.

Meanwhile, the NASA chap insists that the worm was "never a threat" to any of the command-and-control systems. He also let slip that there "have been other incidents" during the 10 year history of the International Space Station.

However, as Sophos senior technology consultant Graham Cluley observes "What confuses me is how the malware made it as far as the astronauts in the first place? Surely it should be possible to scan computers and storage devices before they are carried on the Shuttle up to the space station in orbit?"

The good news is that NASA and the ISS crew are working together to ensure that similar infections can be prevented in the future.

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