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NASA Takes Down Database After Contractor Arrested

NASA has taken down a database of technical reports while it reviews determines the risk of sensitive documents being leaked following the arrest of a Chinese national earlier this month.

NASA has taken down a database of technical reports while it reviews determines the risk of sensitive documents being leaked following the arrest of a Chinese national earlier this month.

The suspect, Bo Jiang, worked as a contractor for the National Institute of Aerospace at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia and was arrested by the FBI as he attempted to board a plane March 16 headed to China. He has been charged with lying to federal authorities regarding the electronics he was trying to take with him after reportedly failing to disclose he possessed an additional laptop, cell phone SIM card and an old hard drive. 

As a result of the arrest, the agency decided to shut down the publicly-accessible NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS) as part of a security review.

“NASA takes all security concerns very seriously,” Michael Cabbage, a NASA spokesman, told SecurityWeek. “The NTRS server was taken offline at the direction of NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.  It will remain offline until we ensure there is no export-control sensitive information on it.” 

On March 20, Bolden told the House Appropriations Committee that NASA completed a review of a potential breach at the Langley Research Facility and has taken several steps to address security besides shutting down the database – including ordering a complete review of the access foreign nationals from certain countries are granted at NASA facilities.

“I have ordered a moratorium on granting any new access to NASA facilities to individuals from specific designated countries, including China, Burma, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan,” he told the committee, adding that while this review is ongoing, any remote computer access to NASA resources for those countries will be terminated.

In addition, NASA has been working closely with law enforcement agencies on security, and NASA supervisors are reinforcing the importance of following security protocols.

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 “And finally, I want this Committee to know that I have placed a priority on protecting security, export control, and safety compliance funding from any budgetary impacts from sequestration, and my team will continue working under that guidance,” he said.
Congressman Frank Wolf, (R-Va), applauded the leadership of Langley Research Center March 18, noting that the facility moved quickly to review security after Jiang’s arrest was made public.

“I would encourage all NASA centers to follow Langley’s lead to ensure that similar security issues are prevented at other centers,” he said. 

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