NASA has seen increased malicious activity from both nation-state hackers and cybercriminals who have begun to target the US space agency’s systems and staff working from home during the global pandemic.
Mitigation tools and measures put in place by NASA’s Security Operations Center (SOC) were successfully able to block a wave of cyberattacks though the agency has reported seeing double the number of phishing attempts and malicious sites being blocked as well as an exponential increase in malware attacks.
In a status report memo, the Office of the Chief Information Officer warned all NASA personnel and contractors about these heightened threats, saying:
“NASA employees and contractors should be aware that nation-states and cybercriminals are actively using the COVID-19 pandemic to exploit and target NASA electronic devices, networks, and personal devices. Some of their goals include accessing sensitive information, user names, and passwords, conducting denial of service attacks, spreading disinformation, and carrying out scams.”
Targeting NASA personnel
NASA has also observed that threat actors are increasing sending malicious emails with the aim of infecting employees with malware in order to obtain sensitive information which could be used later to gain access to the US space agency’s systems and sensitive data.
Once again cybercriminals are using the coronavirus outbreak as a lure in phishing attacks with requests for donations, tax refunds, safety measures, fake vaccines, updates on virus transmissions and other disinformation campaigns.
Some of the recent attacks against NASA employees also targeted their mobile devices in order to trick victims into revealing sensitive information. The Office of the Chief Information Officer provided more details on these attacks in its memo, saying:
“This is not specific to computers, there are also phishing attacks occurring against mobile devices with similar lures, such as text messages or advertisements within applications, designed to entice victims to click on links designed to secretly have their sensitive information and account credentials harvested.”
Both NASA contractors and personnel have been advised that these cyberattacks will remain at an elevated level throughout the pandemic which is why the US space agency recommends exercising caution while using internet-connected desktops and mobile devices during the coronavirus outbreak.