NASA Laptop Containing Unencrypted Data Stolen

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe’s Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

NASA security is under the spotlight again

NASA has warned that a stolen laptop that may have contained unencrypted information about its staff.

In a memo to employees sent out on Tuesday, it said a laptop and official NASA documents issued to an employee were stolen from the their locked vehicle.

“The laptop contained records of sensitive personally identifiable information for a large number of NASA employees, contractors and others,” the memo read, according to the New York Times.

spacex launch nasa space ISSNASA security

“Although the laptop was password protected, it did not have whole disk encryption software, which means the information on the laptop could be accessible to unauthorised individuals.

“We are thoroughly assessing and investigating the incident and taking every possible action to mitigate the risk of harm or inconvenience to affected employees.”

NASA has had a number of unfortunate security incidents in the past few years. In March 2011 an unencrypted NASA laptop was stolen, resulting in “the loss of the algorithms used to command and control the International Space Station”.

It also emerged that the US space agency experienced  5,408 IT security ‘incidents’ in 2010 and 2011.

In May, a group of hackers calling themselves The Unknowns claimed to have hacked into systems belonging to NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and a number of military websites.

“It’s surprising that this has happened so soon after NASA’s large-scale losses of sensitive data and devices, revealed earlier this year,” said  Terry Greer-King, UK MD for Check Point.

How well do you know Internet security? Try our quiz and find out!