Attacks/Breaches
8/24/2016
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French Submarine Firm Claims Economic Warfare After Massive Data Leak

The Australian publishes over 22,000 documents on six DCNS Scorpene subs that are being built in India

French submarine maker DCNS this week claimed it was the victim of economic warfare after an Australian newspaper published more than 22,000 pages of highly detailed information on its Scorpene submarines being built in India.

In comments to Reuters Wednesday, a DCNS spokeswoman described the leak as potential corporate espionage that could affect the company’s contracts with other governments.

"Competition is getting tougher and tougher, and all means can be used in this context," Reuters quoted the spokeswoman as saying.

The Australian newspaper earlier this week published some 22,400 documents containing sensitive information on the technical capabilities of six Scorpene submarines that are being built at a shipyard in Mumbai, India.

According to the newspaper, the documents reveal the intelligence-gathering capabilities of the submarines, their stealth abilities and information pertaining to weapons, combat systems, diving, sensors, navigation, communication and sonar capabilities. The documents are so detailed they contain information like the conditions under which the periscope can be used and the noise levels created by the propeller.

The Australian said that in total it had reviewed over 4,450 pages on the Scorpene’s underwater sensors, another 4,200 or so pages of data on above-water sensors and over 4,300 pages on its combat systems.

In addition, the leaked documents include hitherto secret information on sea trials that the Malaysian Navy is conducting with its fleet of Scorpene submarines, The Australian said. Also leaked were 12 documents pertaining to DCNS radar systems in some Chilean frigates and deals with the Russian government pertaining to amphibious assault vessels.

In a brief statement, the DCNS said it is aware of the leak on the Indian Scorpenes and noted that the appropriate French authorities are currently investigating the breach. “This investigation will determine the exact nature of the leaked documents, the potential damages to DCNS customers as well as the responsibilities for this leakage.”

The Australian has not said how, where, or from whom it received the documents. But it has said the incident raises serious questions about the security of a $38 billion submarine project that the DCNS is currently negotiating with the Australian government.

DCNS itself has apparently hinted that the leak happened in India rather than in France. But information made available to The Australian suggests that a former French naval officer may have removed the data from a system in that country back in 2011 and made it available to a navy in southeast Asia, the paper said.

The DCNS leak is the second one in recent days involving the exposure of highly sensitive material. Last week, a group calling itself ShadowBrokers released a data tranche containing details of top-secret cyberweapons apparently developed by the US National Security Agency for use against adversaries.

Among the dozens of tools publicly released were several that targeted zero-day flaws in firewalls from companies like Cisco and Juniper.

Shadow Brokers also put up for auction a second, fully encrypted document that it says contains even more NSA cyberweapons. The group has said it will release the decryption keys to the highest bidder or make the key publicly available if the auction raises around $550 million.

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Jai Vijayan is a seasoned technology reporter with over 20 years of experience in IT trade journalism. He was most recently a Senior Editor at Computerworld, where he covered information security and data privacy issues for the publication. Over the course of his 20-year ... View Full Bio

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