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  1. ITV Report

Hackers targeted NASA 13 times last year

NASA space shuttle Discovery is seen with the earth behind it approaching the International Space Station Photo: REUTERS

NASA told the US Congress hackers broke into its computer systems 13 times last year, stealing employee creditionals and gaining access to mission-critical projects that could have compromised US national security, the space organisation has told US politicians.

NASA only spends $58 million of its $1.5 billion annual IT budget on cyber security; though this figure is set to rise due to the growing threat hackers.

Space shuttle Atlantis before launch last year. Credit: NASA

Paul Martin, inspector general of the agency, admitted the security breeches whilst testifying to a Congressional panel.

"Some NASA systems house sensitive information which, if lost or stolen, could result in significant financial loss, adversely affect national security, or significantly impair our nation's competitive technological advantage,"

Last November hackers working through a Chinese-based IP address broke into the network of the most highly sensitive areas of development and research. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory were the agency stores research, education and most recent technological designs for satellites and rocket jets.

Hackers gained access to the highly sensitive Jet Propulsion Laboratory were NASA stores its latest research and development documents. Credit: NASA

The hackers were able to modify, copy and delete sensitive information, as well as create new accounts to enable other hackers to do the same.

In another attack last year, intruders stole creditionals for accessing NASA systems from more than 150 employees.

Space shuttle mission specialist Nicholas Patrick from England on board a space orbiter. Hackers gained access to NASA employee profiles. Credit: NASA TV

In his report Martin said NASA were to slow to react to the threat of hacking and did not take the appropriate measures to protect themselves.

He cited several cases were laptops with sensitive information were stolen; the data inside was not encrypted meaning the minor thefts resulted in a major national security breech.

Britian's Gary McKinnon was extradited to the United States on charges of hacking into government computers including NASA systems. Credit: TM/RB/ROB