At least two laptops aboard the International Space Station had a virus that was eventually eliminated using virus protection software and didn't pose a threat to the ISS, NASA confirmed yesterday. The virus simply was a "nuisance" more than an overall threat to the station.
Due to internal regulations regarding computer security, NASA officials were unable to identify how the laptops were infected with a virus. Because the ISS does not have a direct internet connection, the most likely way to infect a computer was through a USB stick that one of the astronauts may have brought aboard. Astronauts are able to send and receive e-mail using the KU band data link that also helps transmit video and other data.
Online space news site SpaceRef.com uncovered the news on Monday, reporting the virus was the W32.Gammima.AG worm, which has been designed to steal login and password information from online gamers and send the information to a remote location.
The infected computer was not used for mission critical purposes, with NASA stating the laptops were used to store nutritional experiment data and for astronauts to compose e-mails.
It's not common for the computers and laptops aboard the ISS to get infected, but it has happened before in the past, though NASA did not mention when or how often similar occurrences may have happened.
The ISS has at least 30 PCs and a handful of laptops for use by astronauts to use in their experiments.