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27 August 2008, 13:46

Virus infects International Space Station

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A computer virus infection has been found on the International Space Station (ISS), according to US media reports. Since the ISS has no direct internet connection, the infection must have been introduced either by a recently introduced laptop, or from media such as a USB memory stick. The infection had spread to several laptops before it was discovered.

The first media report of the infection appeared in According to this report the virus found was the W32.Gammima.AG worm, a fairly rare level 0 gaming virus intended to gather personal information and first seen in the wild in August 2007.

NASA confirmed the infection on Tuesday 26 August, but reported it as only affecting non-critical systems. NASA spokesman Kelly Humphries said "This is not the first time we have had a worm or a virus," – "It's not a frequent occurrence, but this isn't the first time." Apparently efforts are now being made to discover how the virus got on-board and to stop future occurrences. However you might wonder why these measures are only now being taken if this, as NASA says, is not the first time it has happened. It appears that the ISS has no unified anti-virus policy in place and that several laptops on-board had no anti-virus software installed. This seems surprising since any virus in a human life critical application, such as in space, can be deadly, but even when found in non-critical systems, a virus on a space station can cost millions of dollars. When asked if the infected laptops could be connected to the same network as mission-critical systems, Humphries said "I don't know and even if I did, I wouldn't be able to tell you for IT security reasons".

(Terry Relph-Knight)


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