JAXA Data Stolen By Malware
December 1, 2012

Malware Swipes Rocket Data From Japanese Space Agency

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports — Your Universe Online

Information about one of the Japanese space program's newest rockets was stolen from a desktop computer that had been infected with malware, officials from the organization revealed on Friday.

A computer housed at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's (JAXA) Tsukuba Space Center northeast of Tokyo had been discovered compiling data and transmitting it to computers outside of the agency, according to Ars Technica's Dan Goodin.

The computer was found to be infected and was cleaned on November 21, and no other computers were found to contain malware, Martin Fackler of the New York Times added.

JAXA officials said that it was not clear if the virus was a cyberattack, Fackler said, but Japanese defense firms had been targeted by similar information-stealing programs, including some that had been linked to China.

"The data stolen from the space agency included information about the Epsilon, a solid-fuel rocket still under development," Fackler said. "While the Epsilon is intended to launch satellite and space probes, solid-fuel rockets of that size can also have a military use as intercontinental ballistic missiles."

"The Epsilon, whose first launching is scheduled for next autumn, will also feature new technology that will allow it to be remotely controlled by a personal computer," he added.

Computer-based espionage attacks have become more and more common in recent years, with a vast array of international targets - including private companies, government organizations, and human rights advocacy groups - becoming frequent targets of such cybercrime efforts, Goodin said. In many cases, evidence linking the attacks to Chinese government officials has been uncovered.

"Highly sophisticated malware dubbed Flame, which reportedly was jointly developed by the US and Israeli governments, has also been used to spy on Iran," he added. "On Friday, researchers from antivirus provider Kaspersky Lab, published details on a targeted attack on Syria's Ministry of Foreign Affairs."