Hackers mirror 250GB of NASA files on the web

Space agency says docs are public anyway – and miscreants didn't hijack $200m drone

Updated Hackers have released online 250GB of data they claim they purloined from NASA systems.

"So yeah, we know what you're thinking, hacking NASA? How fucking cliche... If only I had a Dogecoin for every time someone claimed that, amiright?" the group wrote in an online posting.

"It's like the boy who cried wolf but with hacking NASA instead lol. But you might be surprised how low govt security standards can be, especially with a limited budget and clueless boomers controlling the network."

The swiped records include the names, phone numbers, and email addresses of 2,414 NASA staffers, as well as more than 2,000 flight logs and 600 video feeds from the agency's fleet of aircraft. The hacker team, calling itself Anonsec, dumped the data on the web with an explanation of how the hack took place.

NASA makes the vast majority of its research and material public, so it's not clear if the 250GB collection is anything more than publicly available information or information not worth publishing. Still, if miscreants were able to penetrate the space agency's systems, that's embarrassing.

Anonsec said it didn't perform the initial intrusion into NASA, the group claims, but bought access to an agency computer from another hacker. It was only a user account, but the group mapped out what they could of the network and set to work.

The acquired user account turned out to be running on a fully patched version of Debian, but the group did some digging and was able to get access to other machines on the network, several of which had unpatched flaws.

Access was made easier by poor password security, it's claimed. In a scan for accounts using the login and password "root," the first positive hit came up within 0.32 seconds, and linking these enabled them to build a network map of NASA subsystems.

Using these techniques, the team managed to get network access to NASA's Glenn Research Center, Goddard Space Flight Center, and Dryden Flight Research Center networks. They then concentrated on finding aircraft data, since one of the key purposes of the hack was to find out more about NASA's cloud seeding research.

"One of the main purposes of the Operation was to bring awareness to the reality of Chemtrails/CloudSeeding/Geoengineering/Weather Modification, whatever you want to call it, they all represent the same thing. NASA even has several missions dedicated to studying Aerosols and their affects (sic) on the environment and weather, so we targeted their systems," the group states.

While cloud seeding to produce rainfall or other desired conditions has been researched by NASA, and has been used heavily by the Chinese for years now, the group believes that the US government is distributing heavy metals throughout the atmosphere and that these chemicals have an adverse reaction on human health and crops.

"Since organic plants (non-GMO) can't grow in harsh environments like GMOs they are forced to use Monsanto's seeds," the group said.

"However they are Terminator Seeds, which means they don't reproduce any usable seeds for the farmer, they have to keep buying more. So no more independent farmers and Monsanto controls a majority of the food supply through the farmers."

NASA is looking at the effect of cloud seeding in the upper atmosphere, but sadly – for the hackers – there was no smoking gun suggesting the agency is engaged in an active conspiracy.

In addition, the group claims to have directed a $200m NASA Global Hawk drone while it was on a flight over the Pacific. The drone is used for high-altitude testing and long duration flights (it can stay aloft for 24 hours at a time), but the group says its security is lousy.

When they examined how the Global Hawk IT systems were run, they found out that NASA was uploading a backup flight plan into the aircraft using a .gpx file. So the team crafted their own and uploaded it to the drone with the intent of crashing the aircraft into the sea.

But as soon as the drone left its predetermined flight plan, it's claimed, NASA controllers noticed something was wrong and took manual control. Shortly afterwards, the hackers were locked out of the system after a network security overhaul that, they say, was down to the hack being discovered.

NASA hasn't responded to requests for information on the hacking attack, but the leaked contact details seen by The Register are accurate. ®

Updated to add

"Control of our global hawk aircraft was not compromised," a spokesperson for NASA said in a statement.

"NASA strives to make our scientific data publicly available, including large data sets, which seems to be how the information in question was retrieved."

Similar topics

Other stories you might like

  • NASA circles August in its diary to put Artemis I capsule in Moon orbit
    First steps by humans to recapture planet's natural satellite

    NASA is finally ready to launch its unmanned Orion spacecraft and put it in the orbit of the Moon. Lift-off from Earth is now expected in late August using a Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.

    This launch, a mission dubbed Artemis I, will be a vital stage in the Artemis series, which has the long-term goal of ferrying humans to the lunar surface using Orion capsules and SLS technology.

    Earlier this week NASA held a wet dress rehearsal (WDR) for the SLS vehicle – fueling it and getting within 10 seconds of launch. The test uncovered 13 problems, including a hydrogen fuel leak in the main booster, though NASA has declared that everything's fine for a launch next month.

    Continue reading
  • NASA wants nuclear reactor on the Moon by 2030
    Space boffins task engineers with creating 40kW lunar fission plant that can operate for ten years

    NASA has chosen the three companies it will fund to develop a nuclear fission reactor ready to test on the Moon by the end of the decade.

    This power plant is set to be a vital component of Artemis, the American space agency's most ambitious human spaceflight mission to date. This is a large-scale project to put the first woman and first person of color on the Moon, and establish a long-term presence on Earth's natural satellite.

    NASA envisions [PDF] astronauts living in a lunar base camp, bombing around in rovers, and using it as a launchpad to explore further out into the Solar System. In order for this to happen, it'll need to figure out how to generate a decent amount of power somehow.

    Continue reading
  • Behold this drone-dropping rifle with two-mile range
    Confuses rather than destroys unmanned aerials to better bring back intel, says Ukrainian designer

    What's said to be a Ukrainian-made long-range anti-drone rifle is one of the latest weapons to emerge from Russia's ongoing invasion of its neighbor.

    The Antidron KVS G-6 is manufactured by Kvertus Technology, in the western Ukraine region of Ivano-Frankivsk, whose capital of the same name has twice been subjected to Russian bombings during the war. Like other drone-dropping equipment, we're told it uses radio signals to interrupt control, remotely disabling them, and it reportedly has an impressive 3.5 km (2.17 miles) range.

    "We are not damaging the drone. With communication lost, it just loses coordination and doesn't know where to go. The drone lands where it is jammed, or can be carried away by the wind because it's uncontrollable,"  Kvertus' director of technology Yaroslav Filimonov said. Because the downed drones are unharmed, they give Ukrainian soldiers recovering them a wealth of potential intelligence, he added.  

    Continue reading
  • Whatever hit the Moon in March, it left this weird double crater
    NASA probe reveals strange hole created by suspected Chinese junk

    Pic When space junk crashed into the Moon earlier this year, it made not one but two craters on the lunar surface, judging from images revealed by NASA on Friday.

    Astronomers predicted a mysterious object would hit the Moon on March 4 after tracking the debris for months. The object was large, and believed to be a spent rocket booster from the Chinese National Space Administration's Long March 3C vehicle that launched the Chang'e 5-T1 spacecraft in 2014.

    The details are fuzzy. Space agencies tend to monitor junk closer to home, and don't really keep an eye on what might be littering other planetary objects. It was difficult to confirm the nature of the crash; experts reckoned it would probably leave behind a crater. Now, NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has spied telltale signs of an impact at the surface. Pictures taken by the probe reveal an odd hole shaped like a peanut shell on the surface of the Moon, presumably caused by the Chinese junk.

    Continue reading
  • NASA tricks Artemis launch computer by masking data showing a leak
    Plus it aborts ISS reboost. Not the greatest start to the week, was it?

    NASA engineers had to work fast to avoid another leak affecting the latest Artemis dry run, just hours after an attempt to reboost the International Space Station (ISS) via the Cygnus freighter was aborted following a few short seconds.

    The US space agency on Monday rolled the huge Artemis I stack back to its Florida launchpad having worked through the leaks and problems that had beset its previous attempt at fueling the beast in April for an earlier dress rehearsal of the final countdown.

    As propellant was loaded into the rocket, controllers noted a hydrogen leak in the quick-disconnect that attaches an umbilical from the tail service mast on the mobile launcher to the core stage of the rocket.

    Continue reading
  • NASA ignores InSight's battery woes in pursuit of data
    Space boffins: Nevermind ekeing out the battery, let it go out in a blaze of glory!

    Pondering what services to switch off to keep your laptop going just that bit longer? NASA engineers can relate, having decided the Mars InSight lander will go out on a high: they plan to burn through the remaining power to keep the science flowing until the bitter end.

    The InSight lander is in a precarious position regarding power. A build-up of dust has meant the spacecraft's solar panels are no longer generating anywhere near enough power to keep the batteries charged. The result is an automatic shutdown of the payload, although there is a chance InSight might still be able to keep communicating until the end of the year.

    Almost all of InSight's instruments have already been powered down, but the seismometer remains active and able to detect seismic activity on Mars (such as Marsquakes.) The seismometer was expected to be active until the end of June, at which point it too would be shut-down in order to eke out the lander's dwindling supply of power just a little longer.

    Continue reading
  • NASA's SOFIA aircraft preps for final flights ahead of mission end
    With operations deadline in September, team eager to squeeze more data out of infrared observatory

    The SOFIA aircraft has returned to New Zealand for a final time ahead of the mission's conclusion later this year.

    The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) is a modified Boeing 747SP aircraft, designed to carry a 2.7-meter reflecting telescope into the stratosphere, above much of Earth's infrared-blocking atmosphere.

    A collaboration between NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), development began on the project in 1996. SOFIA saw first light in 2010 and achieved full operational capability in 2014. Its prime mission was completed in 2019 and earlier this year, it was decided that SOFIA would be grounded for budgetary reasons. Operations end "no later than" September 30, 2022, followed by an "orderly shutdown."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022