Security Experts:

NASA Sees Increase in Cyberattacks During Coronavirus Outbreak

A memo sent out this week to all NASA personnel warns that the agency has seen a significant increase in cyberattacks, including phishing and malware attacks, while its employees work remotely during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The memo, obtained by space news website SpaceRef, reveals that the number of email phishing attempts doubled in the past few days and there has been an “exponential increase” in malware attacks on NASA systems. The number of blocked attempts to access malicious websites has also doubled.

NASA says the tools deployed by its security operations center have blocked these attempts. However, workers have been advised to be vigilant when using NASA systems and their personal devices as the volume of attacks will likely increase even further during the coronavirus crisis.

“NASA employees and contractors should be aware that nation-states and cyber criminals 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,” the memo reads.

It continues, “Cyber criminals have increased sending emails with malicious attachments and links to fraudulent websites, attempting to trick victims into revealing sensitive information and gain access to NASA systems, networks, and data. Lures include requests for donations, updates on virus transmissions, safety measures, tax refunds, fake vaccines, and disinformation campaigns.”

The memo instructs NASA personnel — in addition to being vigilant — to regularly visit a dedicated website with information related to working during the COVID-19 outbreak, use the NASA VPN for any work-related matters, avoid opening personal email or social media from NASA devices, ensure NASA devices always have the latest software updates and patches, encrypt emails containing sensitive information, and avoid including personal or financial information in emails.

NASA says roughly 75 percent of its workforce is currently working from home.

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.