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Ground Control To Major Tom: Check Your Laptop For Worms

Michele Masterson

According to reports, NASA has confirmed that in July astronauts unwittingly brought laptops aboard The International Space Station that were infected with a computer worm known as W32.Gammima.AG.

The worm is a level 0 gaming virus intended to gather personal information, according to, which reported the findings from The ISS 30P SORR (Stage Operations Readiness Review ) last week. The Web site, which broke the news, said that at a level 0, NASA believes that the virus was "never a threat to any of the computers used for cmd and cntl and [had] no adverse effect on ISS Ops."

NASA has theorized that the virus is either in the initial software load or possibly transferred from personal compact flash card, SpaceRef said. To bolster computer security NASA will be working with Russians and other ISS partners to determine security procedures to protect flown equipment.

While this virus is a low-risk worm, some articles have noted that NASA reportedly said that "most of the IP laptops and some of the payload laptops do not provide virus protection/detection software," said SpaceRef.

Equally of concern is the space agency's reported attitude towards computer security, or lack thereof.

Wired magazine said that NASA characterized the virus as a "nuisance" and said it was only on "non-critical space station laptops" that have e-mail and nutritional experiments. Furthermore, NASA said the July virus wasn't the first computer virus to hit the final frontier.

"This is not the first time we have had a worm or a virus," NASA spokesman Kelly Humphries told Wired. "It's not a frequent occurrence, but this isn't the first time."

The W32.Gammima.AG was first reported in August 2007, according to Blaze Security Co. It copies itself and steals passwords from the following online games:. Talesweaver; Maple Story; Seal Online; R2 (Reign of Revolution); ROHAN; ZhengTu; Wanmi Shijie or Perfect World; Dekaron Siwan Mojie; HuangYi Online; and Rexue Jianghu.

The worm's infection length is 75,520 bytes, and systems affected are: Windows 2000, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows Me, Windows NT, Windows Server 2003, and Windows XP.

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