Category Archives: Weaponry

NASA hacking?

A post on allegations of NASA being hacked from Del Brazil of Advent IM

There have been allegations of numerous hacks into the systems controlled or operated by NASA. These have ranged from secret UFO files being accessed, through to drones being infiltrated and subsequently controlled by unauthorised persons.

Advent IM Cyber SecurityThis raises the questions about how secure the NASA websites, servers and systems are.  There are a whole host of individuals who claim to have hacked NASA including a 15 year old who is alleged to have caused a 21 day shutdown of NASA computers, through to an individual who claims to have found evidence that NASA has or is in the process of building ‘space warships’ and finding lists of ‘non-terrestrial military officers.’

The latest alleged hack involves the release of various videos, flight logs and personal data related to NASA employees.  This hack is believed to originally to have started over 2 years ago with a hacker paying for initial access; although it is not yet confirmed, it is fair to assume that this purchase would be associated with a NASA employee.  The hacker then carried out a ‘brute force’ attack against an administers SSH password, resulting in a successful compromise within 0.32 seconds as the password is alleged to have been still set to the default credentials.  Having infiltrated the system with an administrator’s Image courtesy of Master isolated images at FreeDigitalPhotos.netpassword the hacker was then pretty much free to navigate his/her way around various NASA systems collecting information as they went.  It’s not unusual to find CCTV systems and/or other Base Management Systems Administrator settings being still set on their default setting, what is unusual is to find that NASA has systems are potentially falling foul of this too.  There were also claims that one of NASA’s unmanned drones used for high altitude and long duration data collections had been partially taken control of during the hacking with a view to potentially crashing it in the Pacific Ocean.

The information claimed to have been obtained includes 631 videos of weather radar readings and other in-flight footage from manned and unmanned aircraft between 2012 and 2013 along with personal information related to NASA employees.  It is widely

Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

image courtesey digitalart on freedigitalphotos.net

 

reported on the internet that the personal information obtained relating to the NASA employees has been verified by another media client, as they have allegedly attempted to contact those individuals by telephone; although it is further reported that no actual conversations took place and that verification was obtained from answerphone machines pertaining to those NASA employees.   There is no reports that the same media client has received any return calls from the alleged NASA employees nor is there any documented communication from NASA’s IT Security Division, the Glenn Research Center, the Goddard Space Flight Center, the Dryden Flight Research Center, the NASA Media Room or the FBI.

This is certainly not the first and won’t be the last alleged hack of NASA.  It is well known that there are a whole host of individuals who are continuously attempting to attack large organisations; whether their motive be criminal or just inquisitive you can be assured that any alleged successful hack will make headline news. Hackers are widely regarded as kudos- seekers; reputation and status hungry within their own fields and targets like this are very highly sought after.

Protected filesLet’s consider the sensitivity of the alleged data?  Any sensitive or ‘secret’ information is likely to be securely stored in a manner to prevent or at least deter any potential hacker; however no system is 100% secure and so there is, albeit very small a possibility that a hacker maybe successful.

NASA have responded by stating that ‘Control of our Global Hawk aircraft was not compromised. NASA has no evidence to indicate the alleged hacked data are anything other than already publicly available data. NASA takes cybersecurity very seriously and will continue to fully investigate all of these allegations.’  So the old ‘he said, she said’ playground argument continues with neither party being proved or dis-proved but what we do know is that hackers will continue to attack high profile organisations for ‘Kudos’ status or bragging rights.

Trident vulnerable to hacking?

By Julia McCarron with contribution from Chris Cope.

There have been a number of press stories in the last few days that could have us searching for our 3 pronged spears to protect these shores because, if the news is to be believed, the missile version of Trident could be rendered useless or obsolete from a cyber-hack.

I don’t know about you but I viewed these articles with some skepticism as I can’t believe that the MOD and Government haven’t thought to test the technical vulnerabilities of such a critical system before now, especially one with such far reaching consequences if it were breached?

As I understand it from those who have knowledge of MOD workings, all military systems, including Trident and its associated communications networks, are assured via the Defence Information Assurance Services (DIAS) Accreditors.  This assurance process takes into account the likely threats and resulting risks that apply to those systems, including hacking and other forms of cyber-attack.  There is a stringent policy of assessment and review for all major systems, and Trident will be one of the most assured systems due to its importance.  Clearly, though details of this assurance are highly unlikely to ever be released into the public domain; information on risks and counter measures taken against them will be very closely guarded. And I would hope so too!

The MOD will employ a number of safeguards to protect its most important systems.  Many of these will be familiar to the wider information security field and it’s no surprise that ISO27001 features heavily.  The greater the risks to the system, and the more critical it is, the more stringent the controls in place. Many high level MOD systems are effectively air-gapped and have no connection to the internet, even via a controlled gateway. That means they are effectively isolated from other communications networks, even the authorised users are heavily constrained in what they can and cannot do; use of mobile media for example is highly regulated.  Given Trident’s role as a potential counter-strike weapon, the communications to the deployed vessels receive very careful attention.  Not only will there be good level of assurance against the normal range of attacks, but there will be significant redundancy in place, just in case one fails.  Trident is carried by the Vanguard class submarine, which is designed to operate virtually undetected.  Commanders of these vessels have clear direction from the Prime Minister on what to do if there is evidence of a nuclear attack and all communication from the political leadership in the UK fails.

The comments made by a former Defence Secretary about potential vulnerabilities around the Trident system make interesting reading in light of recent concerns over cyber-attack, but the timing of these comments is telling. The House of Commons is due to vote on the future of the UK’s nuclear deterrent … there I go being skeptical again but as my hero Leroy Jethro Gibbs often says, Rule 39# There’s no such thing as a coincidence…