Cyber-Incidents Surge 366% at NASA

Cybersecurity incidents at NASA increased by 366% last year as the organization's cybersecurity budget was slashed by $3.1m.

New research published yesterday by virtual network provider AtlasVPN found NASA suffered 315 cyber-incidents in 2018. In 2019, that figure shot up to 1,469. 

"Being one of the nation’s most important federal agencies, this is an alarming finding," wrote Atlas researchers. "Cyber incidents at NASA can affect national security, intellectual property, and individuals whose data could be lost due to data breaches."

The findings were based on data gathered by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in 2018 and 2019. OMB reviews government agencies annually and shoulders the responsibility for developing and overseeing the implementation of cybersecurity policies, guidelines, and standards in federal agencies.

A digital security incident is defined by the researchers as "any attempted or actual unauthorized access, use, disclosure, or destruction of information" plus digital incidents that include "interfering with operations within the organization and violations of NASA’s computing policies and regulations."

Incidents recorded as "improper usage" accounted for 90.5% of the massive increase. The term "improper use" refers to any incident whereby an authorized user violates an organization’s acceptable usage policies.

A positive finding made by researchers was that despite NASA's large size, only 15 incidents in which equipment owned by the company was lost or stolen were reported in 2019, down from 23 such occurrences in 2018. 

"It has to be noted that NASA does employ more than 17,000 people, so some of them are bound to lose or get equipment stolen, even if cybercriminals are not targeting NASA directly," wrote researchers.

NASA is one of the few major federal agencies whose cybersecurity budget was lower in 2019 than it had been in 2018 after it was cut from $170,700,000 to $167,600,000. 

The news comes just days after NASA astronauts made history by entering the International Space Station from a commercially made spacecraft (a SpaceX Crew Dragon) for the very first time. Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken were blasted into orbit by the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Saturday, May 30, from the Kennedy Space Center.

What’s Hot on Infosecurity Magazine?