Japanese Space Programme Hit By Trojan

A virus infecting the Japanese space programme may have leaked information about the H-II cargo transfer vehicle, which is used to ferry equipment to the International Space Station.

Japanese space engineers have revealed a virus that affected an employee's computer may have handed hackers sensitive data, including system login information, blueprints and emails.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) discovered the malware on January 6 on a computer terminal used by an employee involved in the H-II's operation at the Tsukuba Space Centre - it is believed that an email opened by the employee contained an attachment infected by a trojan.

Officials confirmed that a trace revealed that the virus had gathered information from the machine.

The infected computer was removed from the space agency's network when it stopped working correctly in the middle of last year. Analysis of the machine exposed evidence of a virus infection. The machine was then "cleaned" before being returned to use.

The same computer began showing errors again at the start of the year. A further investigation revealed the presence of a different species of malware. The analysis revealed that data was extracted from the compromised machine between early July 2011 and 11 August 2011 - around a month before infection was first detected.

Data exposed by the breach is said to include emails, technical specifications and operational information as well as login credentials. The hack also exposed blueprints stored in the attacked terminal, according to a statement from JAXA.

The attack on JAXA follows a run of similar cyber-assaults against the Japanese government and industrial giants. Last September, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries acknowledged that it had become the victim of the most high-profile of these cyber-attacks. The Japanese parliament confirmed it had been hit by another attack in October.

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