August 27, 2008

Computer Virus Reaches International Space Station

NASA reports say a computer virus found its way onto the International Space Station (ISS).

Laptops carried to the ISS in July were infected with a virus known as Gammima.AG, officials confirmed.

The worm lurks on infected machines waiting to steal login names for popular online games. It was first detected on Earth in August 2007.

However, this is not the first time computer viruses had traveled into space and NASA officials are investigating how the machines were infected.

But they say no command or control systems of the ISS were at risk from the malicious program.

The laptops infected with the virus were used to run nutritional programs and let the astronauts periodically send e-mail back to Earth.

The astronauts who carried the laptops reportedly do not have any anti-virus software on them to prevent infection.

The Gammima.AG worm virus swipes passwords and login names and then tries to send them back to a central server. It targets a total of 10 games most of which are popular in the Far East such as Maple Story, HuangYi Online and Talesweaver.

Nasa is working with partners on the ISS to find out how the virus got on to the laptop in the first place.

There is no direct net connection on the ISS and all data traffic traveling from the ground to the spacecraft is scanned before being transmitted.

Officials speculate that the virus might have traveled via a flash or USB drive owned by an astronaut and taken into space.

NASA also plans to put in place security systems to stop such incidents happening in the future.

Viruses had infected laptops taken to the ISS on several occasions but the outbreaks had always only been a "nuisance", officials said.