There has been a data leak and it is big. ‘The Australian’ newspaper reported on Wednesday that over 22,000 pages detailing the combat and performance capabilities of six Scorpene-class submarines produced by India in partnership with French company DCNS have been leaked. India had signed a $3.5 billion deal in 2005 to build six Scorpene-class submarines, designed by the French company, at the Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited in Mumbai. The newspaper report has said the information is sensitive and highly classified.
INS Kalvari, first of the Scorpene-class submarines, is expected to be inducted into the Indian Navy later this year.
Stand of the Indian government
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said there has been a hacking and that a clear picture will emerge in the days to come.
“I have asked the Navy chief to study the entire issue about what has been leaked, what is there about us and to what extent. It came to my knowledge at about 12 AM. What I understand is there is a hacking. So we will find out all this,” Parrikar told reporters in New Delhi.
The Defence Minister said he does not suspect the leak to be 100 per cent since a lot of final integration lies with India.
What’s the nature of the data
The data that has been leaked is reported to have details like specifications of the torpedo launch system, speed and condition needed for using the periscope and functioning of the above-water and underwater sensors. According to the report, the data tells the submarine crew where on the boat they can speak safely to avoid detection by the enemy.
PTI said over 4,000 pages on the submarine’s combat management system are among the leaked information.
Source of the leak
“The Australian” report claimed the data was most probably leaked not from India but from DCNS in France as it also includes separate confidential DCNS files on plans to sell French frigates to Chile and the French sale of the Mistral-class amphibious assault ship carrier to Russia. Since these projects of the DCNS have no link to India, there is high probability that the data files were removed from the company in France.
But DCNS implied that the leak might have occurred at India’s end, rather than from France.
“Uncontrolled technical data is not possible in the Australian arrangements,” the company said.
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“Multiple and independent controls exist within DCNS to prevent unauthorised access to data and all data movements are encrypted and recorded. In the case of India, where a DCNS design is built by a local company, DCNS is the provider and not the controller of technical data,” the company said.
The data on the submarine was written in France for India in 2011 and is suspected of being removed from France in that same year by a former French Navy officer who was at that time a DCNS subcontractor.
“The data is then believed to have been taken to a company in Southeast Asia, possibly to assist in a commercial venture for a regional navy. It was subsequently passed by a third party to a second company in the region before being sent on a data disk by regular mail to a company in Australia…It is unclear how widely the data has been shared in Asia or whether it has been obtained by foreign intelligence agencies,” the report said.
Fears in Australia
There are fears in Australia surrounding the security of data on the future fleet of its own Navy. French company DCNS had won the bid to design the new fleet of Australian $50 billion submarines.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said it was important to note the submarine DCNS was building for India was a completely different model to the one it will build for Australia and the leaked information was a few years out of date, PTI reported.
“Nevertheless, any leak of classified information was a concern,” he was quoted as saying. The newspaper also said the company has assured Australia that the leak it has suffered in connection with the Indian submarines would not happen in the case of that country.
(With inputs from PTI)