Space: The final frontier for computer viruses

Virus that hits laptops onboard the International Space Station isn't the first ever, just the first one that is reported, NASA says.

Elinor Mills Former Staff Writer
Elinor Mills covers Internet security and privacy. She joined CNET News in 2005 after working as a foreign correspondent for Reuters in Portugal and writing for The Industry Standard, the IDG News Service and the Associated Press.
Elinor Mills

NASA astronaut Greg Chamitoff, Expedition 17 flight engineer, works with an experiment in the Kibo laboratory of the International Space Station. NASA

The first ever reported computer virus has infected at least two laptops onboard the International Space Station more than 200 miles above Earth.

The worm, believed to be W32.Gammima.AG, steals personal information used to play online games from infected computers and then attempts to send the information back to a remote computer, according to SpaceRef.com, which broke the news on Monday.

The virus was not the first to hit a space station last month, just the first one that was reported, NASA spokesman Kelly Humphries told Wired News. He described it as a "nuisance" that infected computers that are mostly used for applications like e-mail and not critical systems.

Officials were trying to figure out how the virus got onboard. The space station has no direct Internet access--astronauts send and receive mail through a KU band data link, according to Humphries. Reports speculated it may have spread via a USB memory device.

The International Space Station is a collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency, and the space agencies of Japan, Russia, and Canada.

The International Space Station with Earth in the background. NASA