[ISN] NSA to hack NASA

From: William Knowles (erehwonat_private)
Date: Sat May 09 1998 - 13:06:34 PDT

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    WASHINGTON (AP) -- [5.9.98] Agents from the National Security 
    Agency will try to break into NASA's computers to determine 
    whether the space agency can fend off cyber-intruders who 
    could threaten launch-control and other critical operations, 
    the trade publication Defense Week reports.
    The "penetration study" of the National Aeronautics and Space
    Administration's unclassified computer networks is an effort 
    to learn how easily troublemakers can get to sensitive data 
    and what NASA's doing about it.
    Teams from the intelligence agency will soon try to penetrate 
    NASA networks in up to eight states, said the newsletter in 
    the edition to be published Monday.
    Last June, NSA "hackers" showed they could cripple Pacific 
    Command battle-management computers and U.S. electric 
    power grids.
    The NASA "penetration study," which will be run under the 
    auspices of the General Accounting Office, stands out because 
    it involves a U.S. civilian agency, and such operations are 
    barred by the 1952 law that created NSA, the newsletter said.
    However, the law barring domestic activities contains an 
    exception if the spy agency is invited to do the work.
    Still, the publication said the planned test raised questions 
    of privacy.
    John Pike of the Federation of American Scientists, a veteran 
    observer of both NASA and the intelligence community, told the 
    newsletter that the NASA test breaks new ground and bears 
    close watching.
    "This is the next big step in NSA's expanding role in domestic
    information security," he said. "It's certainly the first 
    reported major initiative of this sort with respect to a 
    non-military agency.  While a number of safeguards are in 
    place, there are concerns about the potential for abuse of 
    this type of activity."
    But Charles Redmond, the space agency's manager of 
    information-technology security, said the test was 
    "not an invasion of privacy."
    NASA preferred to have the intelligence agency do the tests 
    because it wanted to protect security and proprietary data 
    and to avoid any conflict of interest, Redmond said.
    The tests will determine how easy it is to access sensitive 
    sites and whether they can be accessed through the Internet.
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