AusCERT 2011: NASA not immune to cyber attack

United States space agency use high-profile cyber attacks to tweak security

An employee of the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has revealed issues with spam and cyber attacks as a point of continuing frustration with the government agency.

Sean Zadig, special agent of NASA’s Office of the Inspector General, said the sheer size of NASA’s network - at some 30,000 nodes - often caused cyber security issues for the agency, with many of the systems attacked on a regular basis.

“It’s good for us because we can handle [a variety] of cyber cases that are going on," he told attendees of the AusCERT 2011 conference on the Gold Coast this week.

One such incident was the take-down of US-based rogue ISP McColo in 2008 in an attempt to reduce the amount of spam distributed globally. The resulting seizer by government authorities allowed NASA to more closely inspect spamming patterns, according to Zadig.

“Law enforcement agencies in the US were working on looking at McColo - the seizure did release a burden for us,” he said. “We did get a lot of good intel and we also made them change their approach. At this stage, the US appears to be free of major BP hosting operations”

Zadig said he believed NASA's next challenge was to deal with the rise of spam coming from China.

“We’ve noticed that hosting is moving to Eastern Europe and China,” he said. “The Russian criminals are now doing DNS and hosting in China and China aren’t responding [to US calls to deal with] this.”

Zadig said his presentation to conference was based on his personal view, and not of NASA.

IDG Communications is an official media partner for AusCERT 2011

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