Space Station Computers Catch Virus in Orbit

Space Station Computers Catch Virus in Orbit
NASA astronaut Greg Chamitoff, Expedition 17 flight engineer, uses a computer while working with an experiment in the Japanese Kibo laboratory of the International Space Station. (Image credit: NASA.)

A virus designed to swipe passwords from online gamers has inexplicably popped up in some laptop computers aboard the International Space Station.

The low-riskvirus was detected on July 25, but did not infect the space station?s commandand control computers and poses no threat to the orbiting laboratory, NASAofficials said.

?This isbasically a nuisance,? NASA spokesperson Kelly Humphries told SPACE.comfrom the agency?s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Accordingto a NASA planning document obtained by, the virus wasidentified as W32.Gammima.AG. The California-based retail anti-virus softwaremanufacturer Symantec describes it as a Windows-based worm which spreads bycopying itself onto removable media. It is capable of stealing passwords foronline games and is classified as a very low risk, according to Symantec?s Website.

Humphriessaid that while NASA security protocols prohibit discussing details of thevirus and efforts to combat it, a search is under way to find out how it got on board thespace station more than 200 miles (321 km) above Earth.

?We?ll doour best to track down how it got there and close that gateway,? Humphriessaid. ?This is not a frequent occurrence but we have had viruses that have madetheir way on board before.?

New flashmemory cards due to launch to the station aboard a Russian cargo ship next monthhave been screened for the virus, the NASA document stated. Not all of the 71laptop computers currently aboard the station run Windows, and those that doand are vulnerable to viruses could be updated, it went on.

The spacestation is currently home to three astronauts: Russian cosmonaut commanderSergei Volkov, cosmonaut flight engineer Oleg Kononenko and NASA flightengineer Greg Chamitoff. Volkov and Kononenko are due to return to Earth inOctober, while Chamitoff is slated to stay until his replacement arrives duringNASA?s planned Novemberspace shuttle mission.


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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.