Massive Data Leak Hits French Submarine Firm

Authorities in India are investigating a massive data leak that has exposed sensitive information relating to a fleet of new submarines being built for its navy by French company DCNS.

First revealed by The Australian, the leak exposed 22,000 pages detailing the secret capabilities of six Scorpene-class vessels currently in production. There is currently no confirmation about how the documents were exposed, whether it was a hack or an insider who leaked the information.

According to the Financial Times, DCNS confirmed the leak, calling it “a serious matter pertaining to the Indian Scorpene programme. French national authorities for defence security will formally investigate and determine the exact nature of the leaked documents.”

Information included in the leaked documents cover sensitive details such as specifications relating to the submarine’s combat and stealth capabilities, and magnetic, electromagnetic and infrared data.

Indian authorities are also investigating the issue. The Hindu newspaper said Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has called for an investigation, and blamed the incident on hackers. “I have asked the Navy Chief to investigate the matter and find what has been leaked and how much of it is about us,” he is quoted as saying. “What I understand is that there is hacking.”

The Indian Navy, meanwhile, has denied the leak came from within its own country. “A case of suspected leak of documents related to Scorpene submarines has been reported by a foreign media house,” its statement said. “The available information is being examined at Integrated Headquarters, Ministry of Defence (Navy) and an analysis is being carried out by the concerned specialists. It appears that the source of leak is from overseas and not in India.”

Australian interest in this case is understandably high, as the country recently awarded a contract to DCNS to build a new fleet of submarines. However, DCNS said its contract with Australia was for a different class of submarine, and any technical specifications contained in this leak do not relate to those vessels.

“The matters in connection to India have no bearing on the Australian submarine programme, which operates under the Australian government’s arrangements for the protection of sensitive data,” the DCNS statement said.

Speaking to Australian TV, prime minister Malcolm Turnbull added: “The submarine that we will be building with the French is called the Barracuda. It is a completely different submarine to the Scorpion they are building for India. But clearly, it is a reminder that, particularly in this digital world, cybersecurity is of critical importance.”

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