NASA Hack – Analysis by Lt. Col Oz Hill

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Information Technology


NASA: Hackers had ‘full functional control’

SUMMARY:  NASA this week released details of security breaches the organization has recently experienced. Out of 47 attempts last year, hackers managed to penetrate NASA’s computer network 13 times.  (ZDNET)

ANALYSIS: by Firestorm Principal Lt. Col Oz Hill (Ret.)

The cyber security threat posed by hackers and cyber terrorists is palpable. A significant cyber attack on the nation’s classified networks and critical infrastructure will have far-reaching effects that adversely impact national security and the nation’s economy. The potential effects of the 13 penetrations against the NASA computer network, on national security and government functions are alarming; and underscore the vulnerability of government computer networks to cyber terrorism.

Some experts argue that cyber terrorism is the same as hacking, but many experts agree that cyber terrorism is far more sinister in its aims to create fear, erode public confidence in government institutions, sabotage economic and financial systems and institutions, and physically harm citizenry by attacking computer networks and systems.

Hostile foreign nations seeking the intellectual property of the United States government, as well as, economic and military advantage are likely sponsors of sophisticated and targeted cyber attacks. State sponsored cyber terrorists are well-resourced, patient and persistent; they tend to approach their terrorism activities much like the calculated and protracted moves in a world-class chess game.
An example of the insidiousness of targeted cyber terrorism is demonstrated by the incident in Romania, where terrorists were able to compromise the life support systems at an Antarctic research base. The breach of the life support system placed 58 scientists and a body of knowledge at extreme risk.

Another cyber security threat warranting tremendous concern is the increasing number of security incidents involving the theft of national records. Whenever a country with a global economy is severely compromised, the global community potentially becomes a victim of cyber terrorism.

Although cyber security processes are commonly implemented to protect computer networks and systems from any class of cyber attacks, all too often cyber security processes are challenged to keep pace with the constantly evolving dynamic cyber security threat.

Effectively combating the effects of cyber terrorism requires a collaborative global effort by governments and private sector enterprises, as well as, the coalescing of technical, legal and content management resources which are critical to create international cyber security laws and establish the mechanisms to enforce those laws.

Whether cyber security threats and cyber terrorism are perpetrated by hostile nation states, “hacktivists,” or cyber mercenaries willing to hack for the highest bidder, the solution to protect our computer networks and systems will require the global community to work together to develop appropriate responses to cyber security threats and cyber terrorism.

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