By Cal Widdall
Chinese hackers gained ‘full access’ to the computer network of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 2011, possibly allowing them to delete sensitive files, upload hacking tools, add user accounts to mission-critical systems, and more.
In written comments submitted to congress last week, NASA’s inspector general, Paul K. Martin, revealed that the organisation is as leaky as a Shanghai air conditioning unit. Though he (probably) didn’t use those exact words, he stated that over a two year period, NASA was the victim of an incredible 5,408 computer security breaches (more than seven a day!), with a total cost of over $7 million.
One of these incidents, occurring last November, was conducted by hackers operating from an internet address in China. The attack gained them access to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) which, besides sounding like the coolest place on earth, manages 23 spacecraft conducting active space missions, including missions to Jupiter, Mars and, presumably, Andy’s bedroom.
Martin noted that many attacks were individuals testing their skill, or organisations hacking for profit, but other incidents “may have been sponsored by foreign intelligence services seeking to further their countries’ objectives.”
Hacking has long been one of the many causes of friction between China and the US. A number of sophisticated cyber attacks, including an infiltration of the US Chamber of Commerce and a strike against Google’s corporate infrastructure were both found to have originated from China in recent years.
Suspicions were voiced by many, including former Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, that the Chinese government was behind the attacks. Zhou Yonglin, a senior Chinese official in charge of internet security, rejected accusations that the cyber attacks originated from China and accused the US of being the world’s most fertile breeding ground for hackers.
As a website operating without a $58 million annual security budget, Shanghaiist would just like to point out that we think hackers are fantastic, and probably very, very nice people.