A detailed inquiry into the cyber espionage case that has hit the Navy ruled out any internal hand behind the loss of vital documents,but has pointed at the unauthorised use of pen drives as the main reason behind the security breach.
The board of inquiry,which has now been completed and has sent its report and recommendations to Navy HQ for confirmation,is believed to have discounted the possibility of a deliberate leak of information or espionage by Navy personnel.
Instead,the loss of vital information to IP addresses in China has been pinned on the unauthorised use of pen drives in naval offices against the rules.
After the infamous war room leak case in 2005,the Navy had banned and disabled the use of such external storage devices from computers located at sensitive locations.
However,in a breach of rules,standalone computers systems in the Eastern Command that have been compromised were found to be fitted with ports and outlets that enabled officials to connect pen drives for easy transfer of data.
As first reported by The Indian Express,Chinese hackers managed to plant a bug into pen drives that secretly collected data from these standalone computers and transmitted them over the Internet after being connected to networked systems.
The bug was specially difficult to identify,sources said,as it used the alias of of a legitimate windows file,ctfmon.exe and did not show up during regular checks. The bug was located during special checks being carried out by cyber security teams. With the espionage angle ruled out,the six officers concerned will be charged for flouting norms,failure to maintain security and misuse of equipment.
Sources said that after the incident came to light earlier this year,fresh cyber security instructions have been sent down to all naval offices,reinforcing the rules against the use of pen drives. Special training sessions are also being conducted for officers and personnel in charge of computer systems and cyber security.
As reported,the cyber breach came to light in January-February after it was discovered that data was being sent from computers in the naval command to IP addresses located in China. The Navy has taken the breach of security very seriously with Naval HQ in New Delhi monitoring the case closely.
Besides the ongoing trials of INS Arihant and the operational role of the Eastern Command that it in charge of deployments in the Chinese area of influence,several other sensitive projects are being undertaken near Visakhapatnam. This includes an upcoming underground nuclear submarine base that is expected house Indias strategic assets.